Palestinian American student shot in Vermont paralyzed from the chest down

Hisham Awartani, one of the three Palestinian students who were shot in Burlington, Vermont, last weekend is paralyzed from the chest down.

On Thursday, Awartani’s mother, Elizabeth Price, told NBC News that her son was paralyzed from the midtorso downward and may not be able to walk again.

“He has what they call an incomplete spinal injury, which means that he can feel, but he can’t move the areas that are currently paralyzed,” Price said. “He is going into intensive rehab later this week, and we hope that that will help with his prognosis.”

In a GoFundMe created Saturday to raise money for Awartani’s medical expenses, his family and friends disclosed that “one of the bullets that struck him is lodged in his spine and has left him paralyzed from the chest down.”

“The family is committed to his recovery and remain hopeful, in spite of the grave prognosis,” Awartani’s family said in a statement on the fundraiser page, which NBC News has confirmed is authentic.

Awartani’s family and friends describe him as “a kind, gentle, brilliant young man with enormous potential.” A Palestinian Irish American who grew up in the West Bank, he speaks seven languages and is a teaching assistant at Brown University, where he studies math and archaeology.

Awartani is dedicated to his studies, and is determined to start the next semester on time, according to his family and friends.

NBC News has reached out to Awartani’s family for comment.

muslim college students shot
From left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani.Rich Price / AP

Awartani was walking near his grandmother’s home on Nov. 25 with Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, all 20 years old, when a suspect pulled a gun on them without provocation and shot them.

The students were speaking Arabic when they were attacked, and two of them were wearing Palestinian keffiyehs, scarves that have become a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

Awartani and Abdalhamid are U.S. citizens and Ali Ahmad is a legal U.S. resident.

Awartani, a student at Brown University, was shot in the spine. Ali Ahmad was shot in the chest, and Abdalhamid was shot in the glute, according to court documents.

Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested in connection with the shooting. Eaton has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree attempted murder.

The families of the victims and advocacy organizations are encouraging law enforcement to investigate the shooting of their children as a hate crime.

“We believe a full investigation is likely to show our sons were targeted and violently attacked simply for being Palestinian,” a joint statement from the families read. “Full justice and accountability is important, and needed to ensure that this type of brutal and violent attack does not happen again.”

Police have not yet revealed a motive for the shooting, saying it is an ongoing investigation.