Palestinian student shot in Vermont now 'paralyzed from chest down'

Mother of Palestinian student who was among three shot in Vermont ‘hate crime’ attack reveals her 20-year-old son is paralyzed from the chest down after the bullet got lodged in his spine

  • Grim prognosis for one of three Palestinian students gunned down in Vermont as they walked to a Thanksgiving dinner
  • Mom Elizabeth Price says son Hisham Awartani, 20, says the family has suffered a ‘gut-wrenching and difficult six days’ since her son was shot 
  • Jason J Eaton denies three accounts of attempted murder as prosecutors search his devices for a motive

One of the three Palestinian students gunned down in a Vermont street has a bullet lodged in his spine and is paralyzed from the chest down, his mother has revealed.

Elizabeth Price said her family had suffered a ‘gut-wrenching and difficult six days’, since son Hisham Awartani, 20, was shot with his two friends in Burlington on November 25 as they walked to a Thanksgiving dinner.

Jason J Eaton appeared in court on Wednesday charged with three counts of attempted murder as prosecutors trawl his electronic devices in an attempt to discover a motive.

Awartani meanwhile is to be released from hospital next week before beginning a lifetime of rehabilitation.

‘We believe that Hisham will meet this challenge with the same determination I’ve witnessed this week,’ his mother said.

Elizabeth Price said her family had suffered a ‘gut-wrenching and difficult six days’, since son Hisham Awartani, 20, was shot with his two friends in Burlington

Hisham Awartani shared a hospital bed photo on Instagram. His family say he is unlikely to move his legs ever again

Jason J. Eaton, 48, of Burlington appeared in court on Wednesday where he denied three counts of attempted murder  

‘It’s been a gut-wrenching and difficult six days, but it’s also been a remarkable and awe-inspiring time – first to watch Hisham and his two childhood friends meet this experience with resilience, strength and even deep concern for others,’ she told CNN.

‘And to see and feel the incredible support from all over the world, including messages of love and support from many of you.’

The Brown University student was chatting in English and Arabic with his two friends Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad when the 20-year-olds were approached by the gunman who said nothing as he opened fire.

Awartani told his mother he ‘suddenly found himself on the ground’ as he heard Ahmad ‘screaming with pain’ from a chest wound.

‘We see this man standing on the porch of his house, kind of looking away from us,’ Abdalhamid of Haverford College said this week.

‘As soon as he turns around and sees us he didn’t hesitate without a word to just run down the stairs of the porch, pull out a pistol and start shooting.’

Abdalhamid was shot in the back but managed to run away from the scene and hide in a backyard, while the shooter hovered over the other two as they writhed on the ground.

Awartani thought he would ‘continue to shoot them and kill them’, his mother said.

She and her husband Ali had advised their son to stay in the US for the holidays, believing it would be safer returning to the West Bank where all three boys had grown up together.

Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed wearing keffiyeh scarves and chatting in English and Arabic when they were shot 

Eaton, 48, told police ‘I’ve been expecting you’, when they arrived at his house overlooking the scene the following day, and a search of his home uncovered a pistol and ammunition that were connected to bullet casings found on the street.

Police are working with the FBI to analyze the contents of five cell phones, an iPad and a backpack full of hard drives to determine whether the attack should be prosecuted as a hate crime, but the families of the three victims have little doubt.

‘We believe a full investigation is likely to show our sons were targeted and violently attacked simply for being Palestinian,’ they said in a joint statement.

‘Our children, Palestinian children, like everyone else, deserve to feel safe.’

Abdalhamid’s parents said he was ‘afraid to leave the hospital’ ahead of his release on Tuesday and Ahmad continues to receive treatment for the bullet wound to his chest.

A gofundme appeal was set up on Saturday for Awartani whose medical costs are expected to hit $1million over the next year.

‘Hisham’s first thoughts were for his friends, then for his parents who were thousands of miles away,’ his family wrote.

‘He has demonstrated remarkable courage, resilience and fortitude – even a sense of humor – even as the reality of his paralysis sets in.

Eaton’s mother said he is a ‘very religious’ person but had seemed normal on Thanksgiving

Supporters have raised $240,000 via a gofundme appeal for Awartani (pictured with dad Ali and mom Elizabeth)

First responders loading one of the victims into an ambulance after the Burlington shooting 

‘We, his family, believe that Hisham will change the world.

‘He’ll change the world through his spirit, his mind and his compassion for those much more vulnerable than himself, especially the thousands of dead in Gaza and many more struggling to survive the devastating humanitarian crisis unfolding there.’

The appeal raised $240,000 in its first 24 hours and his mother said that any excess would be used to support Palestinians who are ‘much less fortunate than him’.

‘We ask that you stand in solidarity with all those who ache knowing the natural conclusion of dehumanization of any people is hateful violence,’ she added.

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