American lawyer, 77, shoots dead two Panama climate change activists

Horrifying moment American lawyer, 77, shoots and kills two climate change protesters obstructing a highway in Panama

  • Kenneth Darlington, 77, was filmed on Tuesday approaching protesters blocking a highway in Panama, and shooting two of them dead with a handgun
  • Darlington was seen being arrested by Panamanian police in the Chame sector, west of Panama City
  • Darlington, who has both U.S. and Panamanian citizenship, has a previous conviction for illegal possession of firearms, local media reported

An American retired lawyer and university professor was caught on camera on Tuesday shooting dead two climate change protesters in Panama.

Kenneth Darlington, 77, appeared before a judge in the town of La Espiga on Wednesday afternoon, and after a two-hour hearing was remanded in custody. 

Eliécer Plicett, a lawyer for the two victims, both of them teachers, said Darlington was being charged with murder and illegal possession of a gun, TVN Noticias reported. 

Darlington was seen on Tuesday, in front of a large number of photographers and television crews, walking up to a road block on a section of the Pan-American Highway in the Chame district, about 55 miles west of the capital, Panama City.

The protesters have for three weeks been campaigning against the Panamanian government’s agreement with a Canadian firm to run Central America’s biggest open-pit copper mine for at least another 20 years. The mine is in an environmentally sensitive area.

Darlington, who lived in the exclusive Paitilla district of Panama City, reportedly told other passengers in the car, as he got out: ‘This ends today.’ 

Kenneth Darlington, a 77-year-old retired lawyer and university professor with U.S. and Panamanian citizenship, on Tuesday shot and killed two climate change protesters blocking the Pan-American Highway in Panama

Darlington drew his gun on the protesters and waved it at them as he began clearing the blockade

One of the victims fell to the ground immediately: the second staggered in pain, clutching his shoulder, and later died in hospital

Darlington can be seen confronting the second man, in a black t-shirt, as the first man lies on the ground

Darlington turns as the man lies on the ground and begins removing the roadblock

The Panamanian-born U.S. citizen, who local media said has a previous conviction for illegal possession of a firearm, is seen arguing with the protesters. 

He takes a handgun out of his pocket and then begins clearing the barricade on the motorway, still arguing. One of the demonstrators can be heard saying: ‘Why don’t you shoot?’ 

Darlington is then seen opening fire.

The first victim fell to the ground immediately. A second can be seen holding his shoulder, grimacing in pain.

One of the victims, Abdiel Díaz, died at the scene, according to The Times. 

The other victim, Iván Rodríguez, 62, was taken to the Juan Vega Méndez clinic in the nearby town of San Carlos, but was dead on arrival at the hospital. 

Footage shared on social media showed Darlington being handcuffed and taken away by police. 

The president of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, sent his condolences to the dead protesters’ families, saying that such a crime ‘has no place’ in his country.

Local media reported that Darlington, who was born in the Panamanian province of Colon, was attempting to drive back to the interior of the country after various errands in the city of La Chorrera when he came across the roadblock.

Darlington is seen with a woman at the road block on Tuesday

He removed the blockades as the protester lay in the road

A fellow protester is seen tending to a man who collapsed after being shot by Darlington

Trucks are seen stranded near Sillimin, western Panama, on Tuesday as the protests entered their third week

He walked up to the barricade and asked where the leaders of the protest were, and was told, according to TVN, that there were no leaders present. 

‘I don’t want to talk to women,’ he reportedly said. ‘I want to speak to the men.’

A handful of men approached Darlington, according to the complaint, and Darlington then opened fire. He shot three men, TVN reported, and the third remains in hospital.

He was allegedly overheard then declaring: ‘That ends that problem.’

Darlington then begins clearing the road block, and returns to his car, where two women were waiting.

One of the shocked women inside the car asked him, according to the complaint obtained by TVN: ‘Do you know what you just did?’

Darlington reportedly replies: ‘Yes, I killed one and shot another.’ 

He climbed into the car, and told the two women: ‘Let’s go.’

Darlington’s girlfriend told him: ‘We are not leaving’ – and then called police, TVN said. 

Darlington will next appear in court in Panama City on November 15. 

He was arrested in 2005 after weapons – including an AK-47 and M-16 – were found in his Panama City apartment, but was acquitted after a court accepted his plea that the weapons were part of a collection.

He was also employed as a spokesman for Marc Harris, a Panamanian accountant who was jailed for 17 years in 2004 after being convicted of money laundering and tax evasion.

A woman draped in a Panamanian flag lights a candle during a Wednesday night vigil

Protesters hold a vigil on Wednesday night to remember the two teachers and climate change activists shot dead on Tuesday

A vigil is held on Wednesday evening in Panama

People take part in a roadblock to protest against a big mining contract on a main road near Silimin, western Panama, on Tuesday

The deaths come as street protests by thousands of Panamanians during the past weeks over a new mining contract signed with Canadian mining firm First Quantum Minerals spilled into wider discontent with the government.

Road blocks set up by protesters have caused up to $80 million in daily losses to businesses, according to Panama’s association of company executives, with schools closed nationwide for over a week and more than 150,000 medical appointments missed.

Officials have urged people to end the protests, though construction workers’ and teachers’ unions have vowed to continue taking to the streets until the First Quantum contract is annulled.

The new contract, agreed on October 20, was signed into law by Panama’s government, and provides First Quantum a 20-year mining right with an option to extend for another 20 years, in return for $375 million in annual revenue to Panama.

While the government has said the new contract offers better terms than the previous one, protesters disagree.

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