FILE – A sign on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington, Vt., is pictured on March 11, 2020. Police say three young men of Palestinian descent who were attending a Thanksgiving holiday gathering were shot and injured near the University of Vermont campus.
Charles Krupa | AP
Three Palestinian students were shot and wounded near the University of Vermont Saturday night, police said.
Two of the three 20-year-old men are in stable condition, while the other is facing more serious injuries, according to a report from the Burlington Police Department in Vermont.
The victims were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner at one of their relative’s homes and two of them were wearing Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, according to the report. The shooter fired at least four rounds from a pistol, striking all three students. Officers from the Burlington Police Department, the University of Vermont police department and other local forces immediately responded to the scene.
All three attended a Quaker school in the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank together. They are now college students at Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College in the United States.
The shooting comes as Islamophobia and antisemitism escalate against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, which is currently in a four-day military pause to ensure the safe passage of released hostages. Earlier in November, President Joe Biden announced a “first-ever” national program to counter Islamophobia. Biden has been briefed on the shooting and continues to receive updates as law enforcement gathers more intel.
The families of the victims called on police forces to treat the shooting as a hate crime in a joint statement: “Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”
The Burlington Police Department said it is pursuing all angles in its investigation, including the possibility that this was a hate crime.
“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime. And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven,” Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement.
Hate crimes are considered federal offenses. A spokesperson for FBI Albany, which covers Vermont, said in a statement following news of the shooting that the bureau was investigating the incident to see if there was evidence of a “federal violation.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, is offering a $10,000 reward for any reports or information that could help arrest and convict the shooter.
Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement on the shooting in a social media post on Sunday.
“It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, VT. Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation. My thoughts are with them and their families,” the Vermont independent lawmaker said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.