Hisham Awartani, one of three Palestinian college students shot to death while walking in Vermont over Thanksgiving weekend, was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot in the spine, his mother said.
Awartani’s family has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to support the 20-year-old Brown University junior. Ms Awarthani will be discharged from the hospital next week and will undergo rehabilitation treatment, her mother Elizabeth Price said in her statement. On CNN.
“I believe Hisham will rise to this challenge with the same determination that I witnessed this week,” she said. “This fund will help cover costs associated with his rehabilitation, his family’s air travel, and the adjustment needs of his new reality.”
Awarthani and two longtime friends from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Kinan Abdalhamid of Haverford College and Tahseen Ali Ahmad of Trinity College, went for a walk in Burlington on Saturday, as usual. They were chatting in English and Arabic. Burlington Police Chief John Murad said shots were fired. Two of the men were also wearing traditional Palestinian scarves known as keffiyehs at the time of the attack.
In addition to Awartani suffering life-altering spinal injuries, two other men were also shot in the upper body and lower legs and hospitalized in the ICU, police said. One of the victims was released from the hospital on Monday, a source close to the victim’s family told CNN.
Abdulhamid’s parents said in a statement Tuesday evening that they were “extremely relieved” that Abdulhamid had been discharged from the hospital, but “we know that this tragedy will shape the rest of our lives.” ” he said.
“Mr Kinnan told us that he was afraid to leave the hospital,” they said. “While our child may be physically well enough to be discharged from hospital, we are still reeling from this horrific attack.”
Institute for Middle East Understanding
From left: Mr. Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Mr. Kinan Abdulhamid, and Mr. Hisham Awartani.
The suspect in the attack, Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday and charged with three counts of attempted murder, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Authorities have not determined a motive for the attack, but said they are investigating whether the incident was motivated by hate.
“It has been a heartbreaking and difficult six days, but it has also been an amazing and awe-inspiring time, with Hisham and his childhood friends showing resilience, strength, and even deep compassion for others. “This is the first time I’ve seen him deal with this experience with such compassion,” Price said. Saturday. “…And secondly, I’ve seen and felt the incredible support from around the world, including messages of love and support from so many of you.”
Price said that if all the money GoFundMe raises is not needed, it will be put into a fund to help other Palestinians who are more vulnerable and “much less fortunate than he is.”
“We ask you to stand in solidarity with all those who are suffering, knowing that the natural outcome of the dehumanization of all people is hateful violence,” her statement read. It’s dark.
The students were in Burlington for Thanksgiving break and were staying with Awarthani’s uncle, Rich Price, he told CNN. Hours before the attack, they had attended a birthday party for their uncle’s twin 8-year-old sons.
Awartani told his mother that when the shooting started “suddenly I found myself on the ground” and remembered one of his friends “screaming out in pain” from a chest wound, Elizabeth Price said. said. The third victim believed her friend had been killed and tried to run away to get help.
The mother said the gunman hovered over them for a short time, and Awartani thought he was “going to keep shooting and kill him.” After the attacker fled, Awarthani was able to call 911.
Elizabeth Price told CNN on Tuesday that her son has an “incomplete spinal cord injury” and can feel his legs but cannot move them. Awartani said her collarbone was also broken and her thumb was also fractured. And her spinal cord injury makes it difficult for her to regulate her body temperature.
His mother said Tuesday that the spinal injury will take one to four weeks to treat, followed by several months of physical therapy.
Awarthani’s uncle said the three students grew up in Ramallah before coming to the United States for university.
Mr. Awartani, Mr. Abdulhamid and Mr. Ahmad have been friends since elementary school, Mr. Price told CNN from Ramallah on Monday. The two attended Ramallah Friends School together before coming to the United States for college, said Rania Mahe, the school’s principal. Ramallah Friends School is a non-profit school run by Quakers in the Israeli occupation.
All three young men injured in Vermont were born just before the end of the Second Intifada, a violent Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza that claimed thousands of lives.
“They grew up under military occupation, so who would have thought they would come to a place like this to celebrate Thanksgiving? That’s when their lives would be at risk,” Rich Price said. said.
Abdalhamid told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday that he was shot in the back while running away shortly after two other students were shot. He said the incident was part of a “bigger issue about hatred against Palestinians.”
He was referring to 6-year-old Wadea Al Fayoum, who was stabbed 26 times by his family’s landlord in Plainfield Township, Illinois, in October, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office. Abdalhamid said what happened to him and his friends changed them and other Palestinian families.
“We have a very strong sense of community. And it kind of ripples throughout,” he said. “…and that is why all Palestinians are currently distressed by what is happening in Gaza, especially with the end of the ceasefire.”
Police Chief Murad said a search of the suspect’s apartment adjacent to the scene of the shooting revealed a handgun and ammunition connected to shell casings found at the scene.
Investigators say they have found enough evidence to link Eaton to the attack, but the motive is still under investigation.
Murad told CNN’s Erin Burnett Outfront on Monday night that the array of electronic devices seized from Eaton’s apartment may provide some insight, and police will work with the FBI to analyze the devices. He said that. During the search, authorities found a backpack filled with five cellphones, an iPad and a hard drive, according to his affidavit.
The victim’s family and several civil rights groups said the attack came amid a reported increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias incidents in the United States since the war between Israel and Israel. is calling on law enforcement to treat the incident as a hate crime. Hamas caught fire last month.
“This was an absolutely hateful act,” Murad told CNN on Monday. “But whether you can cross the legal threshold to determine that it is a hate crime is another question.”
Federal prosecutors in Vermont are also investigating whether the shooting may have been a hate crime, officials said.
After Eaton’s arraignment on Monday, his attorney Margaret Jansch said it was “premature to speculate” about a possible motive for the hate crime.
Mourad said Eaton showed no emotion when police told him the charges against him.
The victims’ families called for “full justice and accountability” in a joint statement Monday.
“We are confident that a thorough investigation will likely reveal that our sons were targeted and subjected to violence simply because they are Palestinians,” the families said in a statement. “Our children, Palestinian children, have the right to feel safe just like everyone else.”
In a message from Mr. Awartani read by a Brown University professor during a vigil for three students on Monday night, the young man said, “All you have to do to become famous is get shot.” Who would have known?”
Beshara Doumani, a professor of Palestinian studies, joked that anyone who knew Awartani would have expected that opening line.
“On a more serious note, it is important to recognize that this is part of a larger story,” Doumani said, reading Awarthani’s statement.
“This heinous crime did not happen in isolation. What I, Hisham, am talking about is that I said about a month ago that Palestinians cannot afford to stay up all night every time something like this happens. ” the statement continued. “While I appreciate and love each and every one of you here today, I am just one of the victims in this broader conflict.”
In a statement, Awartani claimed that if he had been shot in the West Bank, “the medical services that saved my life here would probably have been withheld by the Israeli military.” The soldier who supposedly shot me will go home and never be convicted. ” The procession was met with boos and shouts of “shame” from the students in attendance.
CNN’s Artemis Moshtagian, Elizabeth Wolff, Melissa Alonso, Ray Sanchez, Kaitlan Collins, Laura Coates, Rob Frese, Polo Sandoval, Selina Tebor and Khalil Abdallah contributed to this report.