Brown University student shot in Burlington, Vermont, was just down the street from ‘granny’s house,’ mom says

November 27, 2023
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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Loved ones of Vermont shooting victim Hisham Awartani can’t grasp how he was nearly killed around the corner from “granny’s house” and on “a street he’s basically grown up on,” the young man’s mother said Monday.

Awartani’s father didn’t want the Brown University junior coming home to the Middle East for the Christmas holidays, believing it was prudent for him to stay with his wife’s family in Burlington.

“The short-term shock is now evolving into something more complex as he tries to frame who he is in the world and what it means to be safe in America, particularly when you get shot down the street from your granny’s house in a street he’s basically grown up on,” Awartani’s mother Elizabeth Price told NBC News.

Follow along for live coverage of the shooting

Awartani was staying with his maternal grandmother and his uncle lives next door to her, Price said.

The Brown undergrad and two long-time friends — Haverford College’s Kinnan Abdalhamid and Trinity College’s Tahseen Ahmed — whom he’d known since their days at The Ramallah Friends School in the West Bank.

They had just finished bowling when they went out for a stroll on a residential street near the University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center.

That’s where they were shot by a man who didn’t utter a word to the victims, police and Price have said.

The victim is well known and liked in the neighborhood, where unlocked doors and summer block parties are commonplace. He had no reason to feel unsafe, walking through town with his childhood friends, Price said.

“It’s a really easy place to be. You sit on the porch, people walk by and they talk to you. And they know us, the entire community knows us,” Price said.

“He’s been going there since he was 8 or maybe 10. So for him to have that taken away from him, I don’t know what that means for any of the boys and their ability to function normally.”

Awartani told his mother he saw the shooter, a white man wearing a black hoodie, approaching and the group stepped aside to let him walk past.

“He pulled out a handgun and he shot at them, without saying anything and then he left,” Price said. “Hisham fell to the ground and he didn’t realize that he’d been shot. He didn’t feel any pain, he didn’t know what was going on but he called the police, he was afraid the man would come back.”

Price’s mother and brother saw first responders speed past their homes without knowing where they were headed.

All three victims have survived their wounds, officials have said. Two of the victims were listed in stable condition and a third “sustained much more serious injuries,” police said.

“It’s a miracle that they’re all alive,” Price said of the shooting at point-blank range. “These bullets should have ended their lives.”

In the weeks since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and killed about 1,200 people on Oct. 7, a spike in hate crimes against Muslims in America has brought back traumatic memories of the Islamophobia triggered by the 9/11 attacks.

“Being an Arab or being a Muslim in the U.S. is a dangerous thing,” Price said. “There’s a lot of anger and there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what’s going on here and there’s a lot of de-humanization, people don’t see Arabs or Muslims as people like them.”

Price described her son as a perpetually curious youngster “who wanted to know about everything, he was so curious.”

The victim’s maternal grandfather loves the San Francisco Giants and the Brown student picked up fandom.

“He was a big baseball fan. My father likes the Giants and so we’d … visit in San Francisco and we would go to baseball games,” Price said. “He knew everyone (all the players), he knew Buster Posey and he knew … all of their scores or whatever it is.”

The young man’s passion for knowledge has led him to a most unusual double major in mathematics and archeology.

Awartani has “this different ability to network information to kind of bring information that looks disparate and then come together somehow and they haven’t make sense,” his mother said.

“And he’s just, he’s just a delight,” Price continued. “I mean, delight to talk to and he’s, he’s a fascinating young man and he has a lot of potential. I believe in him because I believe his ability to see and be enriched by the world and be excited by the world, no matter what happens.”

Erin McLaughlin reported from Ramallah and David K. Li from New York City.



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