Hisham Awartani, a 20-year-old Palestinian-Irish college student, was shot on Nov. 25, in an unprovoked attack in Vermont.
The college student was walking with his childhood friends, all of whom are of Palestinian descent when they were suddenly approached and shot by a man.
Awartani and his friends – Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Kinnan Abdalhamid – survived the attack, but Awartani is currently paralyzed from the chest down due to the bullet lodging in his spine. His family has since started a GoFundMe page to raise money for his medical treatments.
His family wrote on the verified page, that “[he] has demonstrated remarkable resilience, courage, and fortitude” even after learning about his paralysis. Within a couple of days, the fundraiser had reached over $400,000, which is half of its $800,000 goal.
According to his uncle, Awartani will be released from the hospital this week and will begin his rehabilitation.
The shooter, 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton, who has since been arrested, pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. Court records show he is set to appear in court later this month on Dec. 18.
The local authorities, as well as the FBI, are currently investigating whether or not the incident was a hate crime.
Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October, the number of attacks on the Arab, Jewish, and Muslim communities has increased.
At the time of the shooting, Awartani, who studied archeology and mathematics at Brown University, was visiting his grandparents in Vermont for the holidays. His parents had originally thought it would be safer for him to stay in the United States with his grandmother than to go back to Ramallah, which is currently occupied by Israel.
His mother, Elizabeth Price, confirmed that her husband didn’t want him to return for the holidays as he thought the U.S. would be safer than Palestine. He believed that he wouldn’t be targeted in Burlington.
According to the Burlington Police Department, Awartani and his group of friends were walking down a residential area, speaking a mix of English and Arabic, two of whom wore keffiyehs – traditional Palestinian scarves around their necks, when the shooter appeared in front of them.
The gunman did not speak to Awartani and his friends before firing the weapon. While he was shot in the spine, his friends Ali Ahmad and Abdalhamid, were hit in the upper chest and glute respectively.