A retired lawyer allegedly shot dead two men who were part of a protest blocking a highway in Panama.
While police have not officially identified him, the suspect has been widely reported to be Kenneth Darlington, 77, a retired American lawyer and university professor living in Panama.
Police said on X (formerly Twitter) that a man was arrested at the scene, where he was charged with aggravated murder and illegal possession of a firearm.
Darlington, who was born in Panama but has U.S. citizenship, was stuck in a traffic jam Tuesday on a highway 55 miles west of Panama City, caused by protesters campaigning against the recent deal the Panamanian government made. to restart a copper mine.
The protest drew a group of photographers and television reporters to the site of the traffic blockade, where they had lined the center of the road with tires, flags, tree branches and stones to stop cars.
Despite the cameras, horrifying video footage showed Mr Darlington, who was allegedly caught in traffic, walking towards protesters and openly shooting, leaving two men dead.
According to the Panamanian network TVN, which reported that they were able to access the judicial hearing on the shooting for a few minutes, the suspect said something like “this ends here” before getting out of his vehicle and taking the road towards the protesters.
The widely circulated video shows Mr Darlington arguing with a group of men at the protest.
He allegedly asked who the leaders of the activists were, to which the men responded that there were none.
“I don’t want to talk to women. I want to talk to men,” she responded, according to TVN.
While still confronting protesters, he pulled a gun from his pocket and held it in his hand as he began breaking through roadblocks, the outlet said.
One of the protesters was heard saying, “Why don’t you shoot?” while others shouted: “Are you going to kill someone?”
According to the outlet, Darlington responded, “Do you want to be the first?”
After arguing with the group, the suspect opened fire and hit a man in a black T-shirt carrying a flag, who immediately fell to the ground.
Once again, Darlington allegedly opened fire, according to video captured at the scene, hitting another man, also wearing a black T-shirt.
The victim could be seen holding his shoulder in immense pain and staggering to the side of the road, where he reportedly collapsed.
The shot men were identified as two teachers, Abdiel Díaz, who died at the scene, and Iván Rodríguez, 62, who was taken to the Juan Vega Méndez clinic but was declared dead upon arrival, according to local media Agence France, Presse and Newsroom, Panama.
TVN reported that Darlington proceeded to remove blocks from the road with his gun still firmly in his hand, and then returned to his car.
As he approached his vehicle, another person in the car asked him, “Are you aware of what happened?” to which he replied: “Yes, I killed one and shot another.”
He then returned to his car, turned to a woman, who was supposedly his girlfriend, and said, “Let’s go.”
The woman allegedly responded, “We’re not leaving,” before calling National Police officers, according to TVN.
Police later stopped the car, confiscated Mr. Darlington’s gun, then handcuffed the suspect and put him in their police vehicle.
TVN said the suspect appeared at a two-hour court hearing the next day.
The effects of the protests, which began more than three weeks ago, have had a ripple effect throughout Panama.
Construction workers and teachers unions have united to protest the reactivation of a copper mine, agreed by the government of Panama and a Canadian company on October 20, to be dug in the jungle west of the city from Panama.
Road blockades set up by protesters have caused up to $80 million in daily losses to businesses, according to Panama’s business executives association, and schools were forced to close for more than a week, News21USA reported.
It has also been reported that thousands of medical appointments have been missed since the protests began.
Authorities have urged protesters to leave, reiterating that the mine is expected to generate $375 million annually in revenue.