US President Joe Biden was "horrified" to learn that three Palestinian students were shot in Vermont over the weekend, the White House said Monday.
Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ahmad "should be back in school with their classmates, not in a hospital room," spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House.
"While we are waiting for more facts, we know this -- there is absolutely absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. No person should worry about being targeted while going about their daily lives," she said.
The students, all of whom are 20 years old, were shot Saturday evening while walking in the city of Burlington. Awartani is a student at Brown University, Abdalhamid is a student at Haverford College, and Ahmad is a student at Trinity College.
The men were in town to take part in a Thanksgiving celebration hosted by Awartani's family. Two of the students are US citizens, while the third is reportedly a permanent resident.
Police identified the suspected shooter as Jason Eaton, 48, who was taken into custody Sunday afternoon. He has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, each of which carries the possibility of a life prison sentence. Eaton has reportedly pleaded not guilty.
Authorities said they recovered a .380 caliber handgun from Eaton's apartment, as well as ammunition.
A search of Eaton's apartment produced evidence that "gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr. Eaton perpetrated the shooting," authorities said. Federal agents assisted in the investigation.
The students were speaking Arabic, and were wearing keffiyehs when they were shot, according to Abed Ayoub, the executive director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. The keffiyeh is a scarf worn in many parts of the Arab world.
It has grown in international prominence as a symbol of the Palestinian national movement, and was commonly worn by Yasser Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader who died in 2004.
One of the victims, who has not been publicly identified, is likely to have long-term injuries resulting from the attack.
"Three young men have been the victims of an unprovoked and terrible crime and their lives have been changed forever. One in particular faces a tremendous struggle and recovery with injuries that may be lifelong," Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said during a press conference in Vermont.
The victims' families have asked authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
Sarah George, the Chittenden County State's Attorney in Burlington, said that investigators have yet to uncover evidence to corroborate hate crimes charges, but added that "there is no question this was a hateful act."
The Justice Department is separately carrying out an investigation to determine whether the shooting was a hate crime, Attorney General Merrick Garland said earlier Monday.