One of the three college students of Palestinian descent who were shot in Vermont last month is paralyzed from the chest down after a bullet lodged in his spine, the student’s family said.
Hisham Awartani, a 20-year-old student at Brown University who grew up in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was walking with two friends near the University of Vermont campus in Burlington on November 25 when police say 48-year-old Jason Eaton shot them with a handgun in a suspected hate crime. Eaton has pleaded not guilty.
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Tahseen Aliahmad, who attends Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and Kinnan Abdalhamid, who attends Trinity College in Connecticut, were expected to make a full recovery. But Awartani - whose grandmother the three 20-year-olds had been visiting over Thanksgiving break from school - received a much graver prognosis, according to a statement his family wrote for a fundraiser to offset his medical expenses.
“He has demonstrated remarkable courage, resilience and fortitude - even a sense of humor - even as the reality of his paralysis sets in,” Awartani’s family wrote on their GoFundMe page, which had raised over $200,000 as of Sunday morning.
Awartani, who is Palestinian-Irish-American, according to the fundraiser, hopes to start his next semester of college on time despite his paralysis, the family’s note said.
The shooting came amid a surge in anti-Islamic, anti-Arab and antisemitic incidents and threats reported around the United States since a conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas erupted on October 7.
Eaton has been charged with attempted murder and is being held without bond while authorities investigate whether the Vermont shooting was a hate crime.
The students were wearing black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves and conversing in a mix of English and Arabic when the gunman confronted them, according to charging documents filed in court.