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Accused Vermont Shooter Has Conspiratorial History

Jason J. Eaton, the man accused of shooting three men of Palestinian descent in Vermont on Saturday, has shared conspiracies on social media and founded an organization based on the writings of a right-wing, anti-government-spending author, social media and public reports appear to show.

Authorities charged Eaton, 48, with three counts of second-degree attempted murder following his arrest on Sunday. The shooting occurred outside his apartment building near the University of Vermont campus, according to the Associated Press. His attorney entered a plea of not guilty on Monday. Hatewatch was not immediately able to locate contact information for Eaton’s attorney.

The shooting comes amid a wave of heightened Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate. The surge came after Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing roughly 1,200 soldiers, police and civilians, and Israel’s ensuing war on the besieged Gaza Strip which has killed over 14,000 people, largely civilians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

The Justice Department is investigating whether the shooting is a hate crime, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday.

Jason J. Eaton, who police arrested in connection with the shooting of three young men of Palestinian descent. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Eaton on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, the Burlington Police Department said in a statement. (Burlington Police Department via AP)

Conspiratorial initiative

The Daily Beast first reported that a 2004 article from The Portsmouth Herald, a local newspaper in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, named Eaton as the president of Middlebury Solari. According to the article, Catherine Austin Fitts, a right-wing author who regularly writes and produces videos alleging that U.S. government agencies engage in shadowy fundraising and spending, founded Solari. Solari’s strategy was to assist “local communities in developing ‘place-based’ investment strategies built on buying shares of and patronizing locally owned businesses,” the article reported.

Eaton told The Portsmouth Herald that the “idea is about taking back the money and power that consumers have ceded to multinational corporations.”

Around that time, Eaton produced studies that made broad allegations regarding government spending. In a 2004 study published by World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, Fitts and co-author Chris Sanders argued that “public institutions have been infiltrated and taken over by shadowy groups in the service of powerful private and vested interests, often at the expense of the common good.” The report further claimed, “that a very large proportion of the nation’s wealth is being illegally diverted … into secret, unaccountable channels.”

It is unclear what type of organization Middlebury Solari was, or if it still exists. Hatewatch was unable to find it in Vermont’s business entity database. A Middlebury Solari slideshow from 2009 makes similar arguments to those in the Portsmouth Herald article.

It is unclear if Fitts and Eaton worked together. The Solari webpage introduced Middlebury Solari in a presentation that dates back to 2003.

More recently, Fitts has ventured into conspiratorial claims about COVID-19. Anti-lockdown conspiracy theorists interviewed Fitts for “Plant Lockdown,” a viral video laden with false claims about the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post reported that Fitts claimed in the video that a “committee that runs the world” called “Mr. Global” planned to use mind control to enslave humanity. “She also falsely claims the coronavirus vaccine is ‘full of these mystery ingredients’ and will ‘modify your DNA and for all we know make you infertile,’” according to the paper.

Fitts’ writing does not encourage violence.

Fitts did not respond to a request for comment.

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad speaks at a news conference with Mayor Miro Weinberger, left, in Burlington, Vermont, on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, about the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime. A suspect, Jason Eaton, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder Monday in connection with the weekend shooting. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Social media

Vice News first reported on Eaton’s now-locked X profile. An archived version of Eaton’s X profile from 2022 shows he shared conspiratorial posts about the COVID-19 vaccine and former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Antony Fauci.

Vice News reported that Eaton expressed support for both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Eaton’s social media, including LinkedIn and X, feature Libertarian-themed posts. In 2021, he shared on LinkedIn a link to the Libertarian Party’s website with the caption “Inner Party got you down? #1984 … Find another party.”

“1984” is a reference to the George Orwell novel which features a dystopian, authoritarian government.

Eaton’s now-locked X profile has a banner which reads: “Libertarians want trans furrys (sic) to be able to protect their cannabis farms with unregistered machine guns.”

However, Eaton has no connection to the Vermont Libertarian Party (VTLP), according to Party Chair Olga M. Mardach-Duclerc.

She told Hatewatch she has “no recollection of the name” and that Eaton is “certainly not an active member.”

Mardach-Duclerc searched VTLP’s databases and said no one “by that name” appeared on their rolls or mailing lists.

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