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Palestinian students shot in Vermont say suspect waited for and targeted them


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Two of the Palestinian college students who were shot while walking in Vermont in late November say the suspect waited for and targeted them because of a “larger systemic issue” of hate.

Kinnan Abdalhamid, 20, described how the suspect, Jason Eaton, appeared to be waiting for him and his two friends before he allegedly opened fire on them on the evening of Nov. 25.

“I don’t know why he’d have a loaded pistol and stand on the porch,” Kinnan Abdalhamid told NBC News in a sit-down interview that will air Wendesday.

Abdalhamid – who is a student at Haverford College, outside of Philadelphia – was on a walk in Burlington with his lifelong friends Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Hisham Awartani, both also 20, when the shots rang out, he recalled.

All three young men, who grew up together in the West Bank, were speaking mixed Arabic and English and wearing Palestinian keffiyehs when they say Eaton deliberately singled them out, NBC said.

“Tahseen was screaming. He was shot first. Hisham didn’t make a sound. As soon as Tahseen started screaming, I was running,” Abdalhamid added.

Abdalhamid was subsequently grazed by a bullet on the right buttock, his mother, Tamimi, told CBS News shortly after the attack.

“I didn’t quite process the fact until I, like, looked at my phone and I saw my phone had blood on it. I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve been shot,’” Awartani, who is a student at Brown University, told NBC.

The pair spoke to the outlet from the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, Mass. – where Awartani is receiving treatment since the bullet Eaton supposedly fired into his spine left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Nearly two months after the shooting, it is still unclear if authorities will charge Eaton with a hate crime, the outlet noted.

The 48-year-old – who was fired from his job a few weeks before the shooting – has already pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder.

Nearly two months after the shooting, it is still unclear if authorities will charge Eaton with a hate crime, the outlet noted.

The victims and their families have insisted that the shooting was a hate-driven attack from the beginning.

“I don’t think too much about if there’s gonna be hate crime charges. I just care that, like, justice is served. And to me, that is a part of it. But I know that it is a hate crime,” Awartani explained.

Growing up in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the students said, they are well familiar with anti-Palestinian feeling and violence.

“It’s odd because [the shooting] happened in Burlington, Vermont. It’s not odd because it happened, full stop,” Awartani said.

“In the West Bank growing up, it’s just something that’s normal. Like, so many unarmed young men getting shot by the Israeli army, and they’re just left to bleed out,” he added.

“Therefore, when it happened to me, it was like, ‘Oh, this is where it happens. This is it,’” he reasoned.

At the time of the shooting, Awartani, Abdalhamid, and Ahmad were spending the Thanksgiving holiday at Awartani’s grandmother’s house – which was just a short distance from where they were gunned down.

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