Hisham Awartani (far left) is shown with his childhood friends Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed, who were shot while on Thanksgiving break in Vermont in a potential hate crime related to the Israel-Hamas war. Photo courtesy of CAIR
Dec. 3 (UPI) -- One of three Palestinian college students who were shot and wounded while on Thanksgiving break in Vermont is now paralyzed from the chest down after the bullet that struck him lodged in his spine, according to family.
Hisham Awartani, a 20-year-old junior at Brown University, along with his childhood friends, Kinnan Abdel Hamid, of Haverford University, and Tahseen Ahmed, of Trinity College, were shot on Nov. 25 in Burlington as they walked to Awartani's grandmother's house for dinner.
All three men survived the attack, but while Hamid and Ahmed will make a full recovery, Awartani may never walk again.
Awartani was shot in the back, Ahmed was shot in the chest, and Hamid suffered only minor injuries.
At the time of the shooting, Awartani was in the midst of pursuing a dual degree at Brown in math and archaeology, family said. He speaks seven languages and serves as a teacher's assistant at the Ivy League school.
The family has established a GoFundMe to help cover medical expenses associated with his recovery, including a lifetime of home care that likely won't be covered by insurance.
So far, donations have topped more than $522,000, however, the family expects to incur more than $1 million in costs to care for Awartani during the first year alone.
Awartani is aware of his dire condition, but trying to maintain a positive outlook to friends and family as he recovers from his wounds.
Family members said the situation has left them agonizing given Awartani's kindness and compassion toward others, including refugees in Gaza, who were less fortunate than himself.
The suspected gunman, 48-year-old Jason Eaton, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder after police arrested him at an apartment near the shooting.
Inside the residence, police found evidence that implicated Eaton in the shooting, which happened after the suspect stepped off a porch and approached the group of students without warning.
He faces the possibility of life in prison with a presumptive minimum term of 20 years.
The Burlington Police Department and the FBI are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime as the gunman opened fire as the three students were speaking Arabic while wearing traditional Palestinian keffiyeh scarves.