One of the three Palestinian college students shot over Thanksgiving weekend in Vermont is recalling the terrifying moment he saw a neighbor pull out a gun "without saying a word" and how his paramedic instincts kicked in to get help.
It all started with a seemingly harmless holiday stroll for Kinnan Abdalhamid, and his friends Hisham Awartani and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, all 20, on Nov. 25 in Burlington, Vermont. Then horror struck, when a man pulled a gun on them without provocation and shots rang out.
“On the way back, we see this man on his porch essentially looking away from us. He turns around, looks at us, and without saying a word — it was almost surreal — he went down the steps, pulled out a pistol and shot my friend,” Abdalhamid, 20, told CNN on Wednesday night.
“I heard the thud on the ground, and then he started screaming,” he added. “A split second later, he shot my other friend, and I hear this thud on the ground.”
Abdalhamid ran and jumped over the fence of a nearby house — “I believe that’s when he shot me,” he said.
He knocked on a neighbor’s door and that person called 911, and soon after, he realized he was shot.
“That’s when I noticed a sharp pain. So, I put my hand behind my back, and that’s when I realize my hand was soaked in blood,” Abdalhamid told the outlet.
Abdalhamid said his paramedic training kicked into gear and he knew how important it was to get help as quickly as possible for his wound.
“Because I’m an EMT, I know that what helped me was that with gunshot wound victims, there is a better chance of survival if the police just drive you straight to the hospital," he explained. "So, I told them, ‘Hey, please drive me straight to the hospital. I’m losing consciousness, we can’t wait for the ambulance,’ and they drove me.”
Abdalhamid, a Haverford College student, was hospitalized for a gunshot wound to the glute. He was released earlier this week.
His parents said in a statement Tuesday, “Kinnan told us that he was afraid to leave the hospital. Our child may be physically well enough to be out of the hospital, but he is still shaken from this horrific attack.”
His friends remain hospitalized. Tahseen Ali Ahmad, a student at Connecticut’s Trinity College, was shot in the chest and Hisham Awartani, a junior at Brown University in Rhode Island, was shot in the spine.
Two of the men are are U.S. citizens and one is a permanent legal resident.
Awartani may not be able to walk again due to the spinal injury. His mother, Elizabeth Price, previously told NBC News: “It’s a miracle that they’re all alive. These bullets should have ended their lives.”
The three students had all attended Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank, before going on to attend colleges in the United States. Their loved ones said they wanted the young men to spend the holidays in Vermont, fearing the West Bank would be too dangerous.
Abdalhamid said he and his friends believe they were targeted for being Palestinian — finding themselves in the crossfire of the Israel-Hamas war, despite being miles away from the Middle East. Since the war began, there's been a surge in Islamophobia in the U.S. reminiscent of the aftereffects of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We all agreed essentially in one second, probably because we spoke Arabic. Nothing else in our heads makes sense as to why he would do this,” he said to CNN. Police also previously said two of them were also wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian scarves.
Officials haven’t disclosed a motive yet.
Suspect Jason J. Eaton, 48, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree attempted murder. An attorney for Eaton, Margaret Jansch, told NBC News earlier this week it’d be “premature for us to speculate” on whether he could be potentially charged with a hate crime.
For the trio, the conflict in the Middle East cuts deep.
In a letter read out to his Brown University classmates at a vigil Monday, Awartani said: "Had I been shot in the West Bank, where I grew up, the medical services which saved my life here would likely have been withheld by the Israeli army. The soldier who shot me would go home and never be convicted."
"I understand that the pain is so much more real and immediate because many of you know me, but any attack like this is horrific, be it here or in Palestine."