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Guns in America

Ex-girlfriend of Vermont shooting suspect reported his alleged harassment to police

The woman reported messages that “were sexual in nature but not threatening,” which came after she made it clear she didn’t want “to communicate with him,” police said.
A student walks by the apartment house where Jason Eaton was staying.
The multi-unit apartment house where Jason Eaton, the man accused of shooting three college students of Palestinian descent in Vermont, was staying.Hasan Jamali / AP

A former girlfriend of the man accused of shooting three college students of Palestinian descent in Vermont once told police he was harassing her with messages "sexual in nature" — but stopped short of pressing charges against him, law enforcement records showed.

The woman, then 36, called police in DeWitt, New York, on Oct. 21, 2019, telling them Jason Eaton had been sending her "numerous text messages, emails and phone calls," according to a department report NBC News obtained Tuesday.

The messages, which "were sexual in nature but not threatening," came after the woman made it clear she didn't want "to communicate with him or see him anymore," according to police in DeWitt, a Syracuse suburb.

The woman "has had several domestic disputes with" him in the past, said the report, written by Officer Alexander Fratini.

She called police after she spotted Eaton, in his Chevy Silverado, driving by her home, police said.

As she was speaking to the officer, Eaton rolled by again, prompting police to stop him, according to the report.

NBC News typically does not identify victims of potential domestic violence.

"While speaking with Eaton, he told me that he was under the impression that [the ex-girlfriend] still wanted to meet and see him," Fratini's report said. "Eaton stated that [the woman] had sent him 'mixed signals' in the past about seeing each other. I advised Eaton that [the woman] wants absolutely no contact with him from this point forward. Eaton stated he understood."

The woman didn't want Eaton arrested but instead asked for a domestic incident report to be completed so she could possibly use it in securing a restraining order against him in the future, police said.

“She never pressed charges," DeWitt Police Lt. Jerry Pace told NBC News. "We could have articulated a stalking arrest if she had wanted him arrested, but driving by isn’t necessarily grounds for stalking.”

Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday after three college students of Palestinian descent were shot in Burlington by a man they didn't know, police said.

College students and longtime friends Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad were staying with Awartani's family in Vermont for the Thanksgiving holiday when they were shot.

Awartani is a junior at Brown University, while Abdalhamid runs track at Haverford College and Ali Ahmad attends Trinity College. The three have known one another since their days at Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank.

The victims' loved ones said they wanted the young men to spend the holidays in Vermont, fearing the West Bank would be dangerous.

An attorney for Eaton declined to comment Tuesday. Eaton pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree attempted murder Monday.

Police have yet to say whether racial animus is believed to have played any role in Saturday's attack.

However, the victims' loved ones said they're convinced the college students "were targeted simply for being Palestinian," they said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The families also cautioned against conflating any mental health issues the shooter might have faced with a potential motive of bigotry.

"Millions of people in America and across the globe struggle with mental health challenges," the families said. "That does not make them pick up a gun and attack people based on their identity."

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or go to for anonymous, confidential online chats, available in English and Spanish. Individual states often have their own domestic violence hotlines as well.

Advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline field calls from both survivors of domestic violence as well as individuals who are concerned that they may be abusive toward their partners.