The suspect charged in the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Vermont last weekend had been accused of harassing an ex-girlfriend in New York state several years earlier, though no charges were filed, according to a report.
Jason J. Eaton’s ex-girlfriend in Dewitt, New York, a town near Syracuse, claimed in 2019 that she had received a series of texts, emails and phone calls that were sexual in nature from Eaton, according to a police report obtained by the Associated Press.
She told police that the messages were not threatening and didn’t want to press charges, though she wanted officers to tell him to stop, the report said. She also said that Eaton had driven his pickup truck past her home twice that evening, once while she was speaking with an officer.
When police pulled over Eaton’s vehicle, Eaton told them that he was under the impression that the woman still wanted to see him, according to the report. An officer told Eaton that the woman wanted absolutely no contact with him, and he said he understood, according to police.
The latest details about Eaton, 48, come as he is being held without bail after pleading not guilty to three counts of attempted second-degree murder in Burlington, Vermont.
Three college students – Hisham Awartani of Brown University, Kinnan Abdalhamid of Haverford College and Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity College – were shot and injured at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday while attending a Thanksgiving holiday gathering at the home of Abdalhamid’s uncle.
Abdalhamid has since been released from the hospital. Awartani suffered a spinal injury and was undergoing surgery Wednesday. Ali Ahmad’s condition was unclear.
The students, all in their 20s, were conversing in a mix of English and Arabic, and two of them were also wearing black-and-white keffiyeh scarves when they were shot, police said.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday morning said that federal authorities are investigating whether the shooting constitutes a hate crime.The shooting comes as threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities have increased across the U.S. since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Eaton’s name appeared in 37 Syracuse police reports from 2007 until 2021, but never as a suspect, said police spokespman Lt. Matthew Malinowski. The cases ranged from domestic violence to larceny, and Eaton was listed as either a victim or the person filing the complaint in 21 of the reports, Malinowski said.
Eaton had recently lost his job. He had worked for less than a year for California-based CUSO Financial and his employment ended on Nov. 8, company spokesman Jeff Eller told the AP.
He legally purchased the gun used in the shooting, police said. On Sunday, Eaton came to the door of his apartment holding his hands up, and told the officers that he had been waiting for them. Federal agents found the gun in his apartment later that day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.