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What do we know about Jason Eaton, man accused of shooting 3 Palestinian students

Jason Eaton's self-reported employment history on BrokerCheck may have given pause to those who considered using him as a financial advisor.

Eaton, 48, a recent transplant to Burlington, Vermont, from Syracuse, New York, is charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder in the shooting of three 20-year-old Palestinian men in Burlington on the evening of Nov. 25, on North Prospect Street. Eaton pleaded not guilty. Authorities have said they are trying to determine if the shooting should be investigated as a hate crime.

One of Eaton's attorneys, Margaret Jansch of the Chittenden County Public Defender's Office, said in an email on Wednesday that neither she nor Eaton had anything to share for this story.

A booking photo by the Burlington Police Department on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, shows Jason J. Eaton of Burlington, the suspect in the Nov. 25 shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in Burlington, VT.
A booking photo by the Burlington Police Department on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, shows Jason J. Eaton of Burlington, the suspect in the Nov. 25 shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in Burlington, VT.

Eaton worked nearly 20 different jobs in nearly 10 years

BrokerCheck is a service of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, which provides background information on brokers for investors to consult before trusting their money to a particular broker.

In his BrokerCheck report, Eaton listed 19 different jobs he held between April 2014 and January 2023, including stints as a farm assistant, night cleaner, carpenter, landscaper, driver, farm manager, sawyer and maintenance person, mostly in small towns in upstate New York.

Eaton was also self-employed from April to August 2021 and again from January to April 2022 in Salisbury, Vermont; and from September 2010 to September 2017 in Syracuse.

In most of his jobs, Eaton stayed no longer than a few months.

Eaton was also a broker for five different financial firms:

  • CUSO Financial Services in Williston.

  • TD Ameritrade in Fayetteville, New York.

  • Edward Jones in East Syracuse, New York.

  • Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. in Liverpool, New York.

  • Equity Services, Inc. in Montpelier.

Eaton's last employer, CUSO Financial Services in Williston, confirmed to USA TODAY he was fired on Nov. 8 after working for less than a year at the broker-dealer.

"We are horrified by the shooting and are cooperating with law enforcement as they investigate," spokesperson Jeff Eller said. "We have no further comment."

Former employer shocked about shooting

Business Insider interviewed a man named Dick deGraffe who owns an organic farm in Pulaski, New York, where Eaton managed the finances. DeGraffe told Business Insider he had known Eaton for 25 years and couldn't believe the news about the shooting. He called Eaton a "bright guy, a jack-of-all-trades," who showed no signs of extremism, Islamophobia or racism.

Sarah George, Chittenden County State's Attorney, speaks at a Nov. 27 press conference following the arrest of suspect Jason Eaton for the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent on N. Prospect Street on Nov. 25.
Sarah George, Chittenden County State's Attorney, speaks at a Nov. 27 press conference following the arrest of suspect Jason Eaton for the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent on N. Prospect Street on Nov. 25.

But Business Insider also cited evidence, first uncovered by Vice, of a "conspiratorial" bent in posts on what appear to be Eaton's social media accounts, most of which have since been deleted or locked. One, on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, said "Libertarians want trans furrys to be able to protect their cannabis farms with unregistered machine guns."

Further evidence of Eaton's worldview comes in 2004, when the Portsmouth Herald in New Hampshire, which belongs to the USA TODAY Network, reported Eaton was presenting a lecture at a local church about, in Eaton's words, "taking back the money and power that consumers have ceded to multinational corporations."

Eaton's mother says her son struggled with depression

The Daily Beast interviewed Eaton's mother, Mary Reed, on Monday, who said her son had previously struggled with depression. Reed said Eaton spent Thanksgiving with his family, days before the shooting.

“Jason has had a lot of struggles in his life but he is such a kind and loving person,” Reed said. “I am just shocked by the whole thing.”

On Nov. 27, Burlington Police investigate a house on N. Prospect Street around where three college students of Palestinian descent were shot on Nov. 25.
On Nov. 27, Burlington Police investigate a house on N. Prospect Street around where three college students of Palestinian descent were shot on Nov. 25.

One of Eaton's struggles was with romantic relationships, according to a police report. On Oct. 21, 2019, two officers from the Dewitt Police Department in New York, near Syracuse, were dispatched to the residence of a woman who had a previous relationship with Eaton, but who said he was now continuing to text her after she told him to stop.

The woman told the officer she had been receiving numerous text messages, emails and phone calls from Eaton for the past two days. She said the messages were "sexual in nature," but not threatening. She responded to Eaton that she didn't want to see him or communicate with him any further. She called police because Eaton had driven by her home that evening in his grey Chevrolet Silverado. She did not want to press charges, she just wanted it to stop.

While the police officers were talking with the woman, Eaton drove by for a second time. The officers "conducted a traffic stop" to talk to Eaton. Eaton told the officers the woman was sending him "mixed signals," and that he was under the impression she still wanted to see him. Wrong, the officers told Eaton. She wanted nothing to do with him. Eaton said he understood. No charges were filed.

An ATF agent knocks on the door of Eaton's apartment

Samual Brown, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, knocked on Eaton's apartment door at 69 North Prospect St. on Nov. 26, as part of canvassing the neighborhood near the shooting, according to an affidavit sworn by Burlington Police Detective Corporal Krystal Wrinn. The ATF was assisting Burlington Police in the investigation.

Brown told a Burlington Police detective that when he entered Eaton's apartment building, he heard a noise coming from apartment no. 6 that sounded like a television.

"Upon knocking on apartment #6, the door was answered by a tall white male with graying hair," Brown said. "The male opened the door with his hands out at waist height with the palms up, and said something to the effect of 'I've been waiting for you.'"

"Why's that?" Brown asked.

"I'd like a lawyer," Eaton answered.

Eaton refuses to identify himself, asks repeatedly for a lawyer

Eaton, unprompted, stepped outside the apartment into the hallway, where Brown asked if there were guns in the apartment. Eaton said there was a shotgun. When Brown asked if there were other guns, Eaton repeated that he wanted a lawyer. At that point, Brown "detained" Eaton, according to the affidavit, and asked his name. Eaton would not identify himself, and asked for a lawyer again. A search of Eaton for weapons turned up two keys in his pocket, which were removed.

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad speaks at a Nov. 27 press conference following the arrest of suspect Jason Eaton for the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent on N. Prospect Street on Nov. 25.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad speaks at a Nov. 27 press conference following the arrest of suspect Jason Eaton for the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent on N. Prospect Street on Nov. 25.

After Burlington Police officers arrived to take Eaton to the police department, Brown and another ATF agent and an FBI agent searched Eaton's apartment and found no one else there. They did find a 38-caliber Ruger pistol and ammunition, described as a Hornaday brand with a "bright red tip on each projectile." The pistol was in the top drawer of Eaton's dresser in his bedroom.

The agents also found five cell phones, a backpack of hard drives, two 20-gauge shotguns, a .22 rifle, and "indicia of motive." What those indications of a motive for the shooting are is not explained in the affidavit.

After the search of his apartment, Wrinn and another BPD detective met with Eaton in cell no. 2 at the Burlington Police Department and told him he was being charged with three counts of attempted second degree murder. Wrinn writes that Eaton had no reaction.

"Eaton compliantly went with us for photographs and fingerprints and when I asked if he understood what I had told him, he advised he had heard the words," Wrinn wrote.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Jason Eaton accused in Vermont shooting: What we know