- 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.
Darlington reportedly told other passengers in the car, as he got out: ‘This ends today.’
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 seen then 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, 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.
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 was allegedly overheard then declaring: ‘That ends that problem.’
Darlington then begins clearing the road block, and returns to his car.
One person 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 his colleagues: ‘Let’s go.’
Darlington’s girlfriend told him: ‘We are not leaving’ – and then called police, TVN said.
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.