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The Student News Site of Burlington High School

BHS Register

The Student News Site of Burlington High School

BHS Register

Students respond to shootings on Prospect Street

The+three+Palestinian+college+students+were+shot+less+than+1.1+miles+away+from+Burlington+High+School.+
Sophia Dengler
The three Palestinian college students were shot less than 1.1 miles away from Burlington High School.

Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Kinnan Abdalhamid grew up as close friends in the West Bank and have been visiting Burlington since they were children. While going on a walk together near Awartani’s grandmother’s house on Prospect Street, Jason Eaton, a Burlington resident, allegedly shot them. The victims’ lives, the lives of their families and the community as a whole were shaken by this event.
Winslow Price ‘26 (Horizons), cousin of Hisham Awartani, struggled to express the magnitude of his shock at the event.
“For something like this to happen, especially so close to a place where [Awartani] felt like home – my grandma’s house. I have no words. It’s just despicable,” Price said. “The fact that this man had no idea who these people were and he just felt like he had to do this. It’s terrible. Terrible.”
The shooting took place 1.1 miles from Downtown Burlington High School. Many students were frightened and saddened that such a hateful act had happened in their community.
“The more I learned, the more disappointed I felt in Burlington,” Nico Jastatt ‘25 said. “Especially because for those boys, their home country is war torn, and so they wanted to stay somewhere safe for the break. Burlington, Vermont is supposed to be safe. It wasn’t safe for them and it wasn’t welcoming.”
While Ahmad and Abdalhamid are expected to recover fully, Awartani was shot in the spine and is expected to never walk again. A GoFundMe that has been started to cover the costs of his recovery has raised over 1.6 million dollars, over three quarters of the way to its 2 million dollar goal. According to Price, Hisham will donate any money not needed for his recovery to the people of Gaza.
“I would like people to know that Hisham is so resilient,” Price said. “And [Hisham] could easily self profit from this, but he’s not making it about himself, he’s making it about others.”
Awartani, Ahmad and Abdalhamid were speaking a mixture of Arabic and English to each other and two of them were wearing keffiyeh scarves, which are a national symbol of Palestine. Eaton, the shooter, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder, but has not been charged with a hate crime due to the difficulty in proving this beyond a reasonable doubt (however, the Justice Department is looking into it).
Reports of antisemitic and anti-arab incidents in the US have skyrocketed since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7th, according to the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“I can’t imagine what that fear is like for members of our Muslim community,” Anyier Manyok ‘24 said. “I can’t imagine what their emotions are [realizing that they might be targeted]. Knowing that they wear their hijab every day, knowing that they speak in their native language, whether it’s Arabic, whether it’s Maay Maay, whatever the language.”

While crime has been decreasing nationwide after the pandemic, in Burlington it is still on the rise. Data from FBI’s CDE. (Erik Guy)

Prior to the shooting, Eaton was an active member of the Burlington community, even attending the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington a few times earlier in the fall. The congregation, whose sixth of eight principles is “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all,” put out this statement:
“We denounce the increase of violence and hateful acts across the United States. As a faith tradition, we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. We pray for the recovery of these young people and that their families and loved ones will know comfort and support.”
Price, Jastatt and Manyok were all shocked that such a tragedy could occur in Burlington, a town with a reputation for being safe and progressive. Manyok thinks this event could be a sign Burlington needs to reflect on how progressive and safe it really is for all its citizens.
“I think Burlington in general makes itself seem more [accepting]. I think that’s because we’re ahead of rural areas that don’t necessarily have as much diversity as we do,” Manyok said. “And we’re here in Burlington, but there’s still so much work to be done. The shooting attests to that.”
Jastatt said that this event was evidence that it’s time to update Vermont’s gun laws.
“If there had been more background checks, and if guns were less accessible, then the shooter wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Jastatt said. “We just need to be trying so much harder to keep weapons in check. And to also check in on and help those who have the issues that would cause them to do something like that.”
Vermont receives a B- grade from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (GLC). Giffords was started in 1993 by Gabrielle Giffords, a former democratic congresswoman and victim of gun violence. While a B- is far from the worst grade in the country, it is also not the best. The GLC says Vermont does well with its minimum age laws and waiting periods, but is missing gun owner licensing, concealed carry permits, and open carry regulations. Eaton reportedly obtained his gun legally.
While Jastatt reflected on ways the community could respond, Price focused on the ways it already has. He is proud of how Burlington came together in support for his cousin and his friends in the wake of the event.
“The couple of days after [the shooting], [there was] so much love from the community,” Price shared. “All sorts of people, bringing meal trains and showing up to my house, seeing what they can do to be there for my family. They’re just so awesome.”
Manyok said that even though people justifiably reacted with anger and fear, what stood out to her most was people’s empathy.
“We’re all really fortunate to be in a place where people can empathize with other people’s situations,” Manyok said. “I encourage people to just think of our Muslim students, our Palestinian students and even our Israeli and Jewish students. Just think about everybody at this time and think about if that was your kid. What would be going through your head if your kid was shot [while] just going out to dinner with their friends?”
Jastatt addressed the victims.
“I’m so so sorry that you [got hurt] somewhere that’s supposed to be safe,” Jastatt said. “I feel like Burlington failed you.”

Penelope deRosset
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Penelope deRosset, Staff Writer
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