NEW YORK – After three college students of Palestinian descent were shot in Burlington over the weekend in a potential hate crime, the interim head of the local diocese condemned the act and reminded Catholics that they are called to “become peacemakers in our cities, state and in our world.”
Monsignor John McDermott, administrator of the Diocese of Burlington, told Crux in a statement that the diocese is “shocked and saddened by the shooting.”
As of Monday, two of the men who were shot were in stable condition, while the third suffered more serious injuries. All three of the victims were 20 years old. They have since been identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmed.
The alleged shooter, Jason Eaton, 48, made his first court appearance by video from jail on three counts of attempted murder on Nov. 27, where a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. He is being held without bail, pending another hearing.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Nov. 27 that the Justice Department is investigating whether the shooting is a hate crime. The shooting is also being investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Garland said.
“No person and no community in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence,” Garland said, in remarks delivered from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
The Catholic leader of Burlington echoed the sentiment.
“We condemn all acts of violence and pray for the full recovery of the three young men who were attacked, as well as for their loved ones,” McDermott said. “As Catholics, we are called by Christ to reject hatred and to become peacemakers in our cities, state and in our world.”
According to local authorities, the three students were walking near the University of Vermont campus during a visit to the home of one of their relatives for Thanksgiving when they were confronted by a white man with a handgun, who is now believed to be Eaton. A motive has not yet been determined.
President Joe Biden also weighed in on the shooting on Nov. 27, saying in a statement that he and his wife Jill were “horrified” by the shooting, and that they “join Americans across the country in praying for their full recovery, and we send our deepest condolences to their families.”
“While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: there is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. Period,” Biden said. “No person should worry about being shot at while going about their daily lives. And far too many Americans know a family member injured or killed as a result of gun violence.”
“We cannot and we will not accept that,” Biden said.
McDermott was named the temporary administrator of the Burlington diocese in June when Bishop Christopher Coyne was appointed the new Coadjutor Archbishop of Hartford, Ct. McDermott serves as the Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General, and previously acted as the apostolic administrator from January 2014 to January 2015.
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