The suspect accused of shooting three Palestinian college students in Vermont on Saturday night has worked as a farm hand, a Harvard research assistant, and a former ski instructor, according to a resume reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday afternoon and charged with three counts of second-degree attempted murder in connection with the shooting. Police say the college students were walking along a Burlington street when the suspect opened fire with a handgun “without speaking.” Afterward, he fled.
The students have been identified as Hisham Awartani, a Brown University student who was shot in the spine; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a Haverford College student who suffered a gunshot wound in the buttock; and Tahseen Aliahmad, a Trinity College student who was shot in the upper chest, according to a Burlington Police probable cause affidavit. Two of the victims are in stable condition, police said, and the third is seriously injured.
Eaton had previously struggled with depression and had Thanksgiving with his family just days earlier, his mother told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “Jason has had a lot of struggles in his life but he is such a kind and loving person,” Mary Reed, his mother, said on Monday. “I am just shocked by the whole thing.”
Eaton’s resume states that he went to the University of Idaho for a bachelor's in general studies in 2001, where he focused on natural resource ecology and conservation biology but was seven credits short of graduating. He also got a graduate certification at the University of Idaho in environmental education, which is pending his undergraduate completion, as well as a pro-professional forestry degree at Paul Smith’s College, according to the document.
He wrote that he was also a research assistant at Harvard Forest, a 4000-acre laboratory in Petersham, Massachusetts, in 1999. The resume states that he “assisted in LTER project examining CO2 flux in New England forest soils.” A 2001 Harvard paper on soil in New England forests acknowledges Eaton as one of the summer interns.
According to the resume, Eaton was a field instructor for the McCall Outdoor Science School in Idaho, where he taught science to 5th and 6th graders for two months in 2005. A year later, he apparently became an investment adviser representative, where he managed about 100 clients and $7 million in assets.
He was also a senior head instructor at Obsidian Trails Outdoor School in Oregon, the resume states. Between 2004 and 2005, he claimed o have worked at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions. Later, he guided wilderness trips for at-risk youth at the School of Urban & Wilderness Survival of the Carolinas in North Carolina, according to the document. VICE reported that Eaton was also formerly an assistant scoutmaster for a Boy Scouts of America unit in New York.
‘I’ve been waiting for you’
The affidavit states that the students were shot outside the home of Awartani’s grandmother, whom they were visiting for Thanksgiving. Awartani told police that he and his friends watched TV and went on walks during their visit and that they did not “visit any mosques nor have any disagreements with anyone.” On the day of the shooting, Awartani told the police, they went bowling and then went for a walk.
“During this walk, Awartani said they were talking, where they spoke in a mix of both English and Arabic,” the affidavit states. “Awartani described that he had been wearing a purple polo shirt, blue jeans, leather jacket, gloves, and a trench coat, along with him wearing a Palestine head scarf.”
Aliahmad told the police that they were smoking cigarettes and he was also wearing a keffiyeh, the affidavit states. Eaton allegedly shot the trio from about two yards away. Awartani told police that Aliahmad was screaming and fell during the grisly crime, the affidavit states. Awartani said he called 911 and that a man approached them with blankets.
Abdalhamid told police that when they walked past a white house, a “wonky” man was staring at them and stumbled down the stairs before he walked up with a pulled-out pistol, the affidavit states.
Believing that the man was going to shoot them, Abdalhamid said he ran across the street and jumped a fence. The affidavit states that Abdalhamid said he hid for approximately two minutes before he ran to another yard and begged a woman to call 911. When he sat down at the residence, he said, he realized that he was wounded.
Eaton was arraigned on Monday and pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail. The arrest affidavit states that when authorities arrived at Eaton’s home on Sunday, he said there was a shotgun inside. Authorities also confirmed that Eaton bought a Ruger .380 caliber pistol in April.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he told an ATF agent, the affidavit states.
Authorities have not yet identified a motive for the shooting and prosecutors said Monday they do not have enough evidence yet to support a hate crime enhancement. Police said earlier that in this “charged moment,” it is possible the friends—two of whom are U.S. citizens—were targeted because they are Arab. Mayor Miro Weinberger on Monday called the shooting “one of the most shocking and disturbing events” in the city’s history.
According to NBC, Eaton appears to have a YouTube account that has playlists with videos that include “Expose Fauci,” long COVID, economics, and how to use brain crystals for “psychic powers.” An Instagram account that appears to belong to him also shows him on a farm and cooking.
In an X account that appeared to belong to Eaton, he describes himself as a “radical citizen...pa-trolling demockracy and crapitalism for oathcreepers.” A 2022 archived version of that same account, which contains the same photo, has a more subdued bio that describes him as a Vermont dad and part-time farmer. The archived X account also provides a link to a Substack, with the “wandering ramblings of a reformed broker on the ADHD/ASD spectrum.” The Substack only has one post, which is an essay on how restaurants can retain dishwashers.
Reed said Eaton had previously suffered from depression and other mental health issues but had been “in such a good mood” when she saw him on Thanksgiving.
She said her son, who has bounced around different jobs and previously was an “assistant to a financial officer.” Public records show that Eaton was employed at Cusco Financial Services, which provides consultation to financial institutions, until earlier this month. A CUSO Financial spokesperson told The Daily Beast Eaton worked at the company for less than a year and was fired.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records show that Eaton has worked as a financial adviser and broker in Vermont and New York since 2002. He is currently not registered.
Public records tie Eaton to Middlebury Solari, an investment model. A 2004 Portsmouth Herald article describes Eaton as the president of the method intended to promote local control of resources in Vermont. A 2009 presentation for the Financial Permaculture Course states Middlebury Solari’s sought to bring together local buyers and sellers to create jobs and local sustainability.
“Working together to make healthy local living economies the best investment worldwide,” the presentation posted online states.
Eaton wrote that he was a farmhand at Maplecrest Farm for about 13 years, where he assisted in managing a 320-acre estate until 2004. Around 2012, Eaton spent a year at Gridestone Farm, where he helped the organic farm with its finances. After leaving in April 2013, he soon got a short-lived job as a microbe farmer in New York.
The resume states he continued to be a farmer at various organizations until October 2016. In 2017, he became a foreman at Landscapes East for a few months. An employee at Landscapes East confirmed his employment to The Daily Beast, but could not provide more details because he and Eaton did not overlap.
In January 2018, he got a job as a financial advisor at Edward Jones for a year. FIRA records confirm his stint at Edward Jones. The resume states that in addition to his vast employment history, Eaton has several certification licenses, including a Series 7, a Series 66, and a life and health insurance license in Vermont and New York. It also states that Eaton is a craftsman, a former ski instructor at ARISE and Ski, and has participated in several clubs over the last two decades.
“Jason Eaton was a volunteer with the ARISE & Ski program up until 2019,” Timothy J. Mahar, the director of advancement at ARISE, told The Daily Beast. “Jason Eaton was never on staff as a paid employee of ARISE.”
On Thanksgiving, Reed said, Eaton was “totally normal” and the family had a great holiday together. It was not immediately clear whether Eaton owned a gun. “It was the best Thanksgiving we had in years,” Eaton’s mother said. “We were all together.”
During the family dinner, Reed said that Eaton did not mention the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. She added, however, that her son is a “very religious person” who connects with different religious figures and often reads the Bible.
“He, like all of us, thinks the world is a mess,” Reed said. “He is a spiritual person.”
At the end of the family celebration, Reed said, she gave her son a Christmas tree to start decorating for the holiday. She said she had not spoken to her son since Thursday and assumed that he was at home over the weekend “decorating his tree.”
Reed said she found out about the shooting early Monday morning when her daughter came over and woke her up.
Police say that on Sunday night, a search warrant was executed on Eaton’s residence. The affidavit states that when the ATF agent asked Eaton why he had been waiting for the authorities, he simply replied that he would like a lawyer before he stepped into the apartment hallway.
Inside the top drawer of a dresser inside Eaton’s bedroom, investigators found a pistol with a loaded magazine containing five rounds and ammunition for a .380 pistol. Attorneys for Eaton did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment on Monday.
“I just don’t understand,” Reed said. “I can’t believe he would do something like this.”