Former lawyer, 77, arrested after two environmental protesters blocking a road are fatally shot

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By Asiya Ali

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A retired American lawyer has been arrested after two environmental protesters blocking a road in Panama were killed.

The harrowing incident occurred on a section of the Pan-American Highway, in the Chame district, about 55 miles west of the capital, Panama City.

In a video captured by news photographers who were covering the protest, the suspect -  identified as 77-year-old Kenneth Franklin Darlington Salas by TVN Noticias - can be seen walking towards the group of demonstrators and appearing to ask them to move.

TVN reported that the lawyer allegedly asked several people who the leaders of the demonstration were. The protesting teachers informed him that there were no leaders, so he replied: "I don't want to talk to women. I want to talk to men."

The footage revealed him being confronted by three men, two in black t-shirts and one in red. One of the men can be heard saying: "Why don't you shoot?" while others shouted at the suspected gunman: "Are you going to kill someone?" to which he responded: "Do you want to be the first?" according to the outlet.

After a few seconds, Darlington Salas can be seen taking a firearm out of his trouser pocket before starting to clear the barricade on the motorway, still arguing with protesters.

He then opened fire - in front of a large number of photographers and television crews there to film the protest - and pierced a protester holding a flag and then a second man who went to confront him. Darlington then walked off and removed tree trunks that had been blocking the road.

The first victim - seen in the footage wearing a black t-shirt, blue hat, and carrying a flag - dropped to the ground immediately. As the man in red backs away, Darlington shoots at the second victim man sporting a black t-shirt.

He can be seen holding his shoulder, in pain, and staggering over to the side of the road where he eventually falls down.

According to The Times. One of the victims, Abdiel Díaz, tragically passed at the scene. The other victim, Iván Rodríguez, 62, was transported to the Juan Vega Méndez clinic in San Carlos but died on arrival.

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Protesters gather to stage a demonstration against the approval of a 40-year mining contract. Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty

For the past three weeks, the environmental protesters have 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.

After two of the demonstrators were fatally shot, Darlington Salas was arrested immediately and appeared before a judge in the town of La Espiga on Wednesday (November 8) afternoon. He remained in custody after a two-hour hearing.

Eliécer Plicett - a lawyer for the deceased victims - stated that the suspected gunman was being charged with murder and illegal possession of a gun, per TVN Noticias. However, it has been noted by local media that he could avoid jail time because of his age.

The president of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, sent his condolences to the late protesters' families on X, writing: "I express my condolences to the families of the two citizens who lost their lives in an incident that occurred this Tuesday in a sector of Panama Oeste. This is a fact that has no place in a society called to be supportive like ours."

Featured image credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty

Former lawyer, 77, arrested after two environmental protesters blocking a road are fatally shot

vt-author-image

By Asiya Ali

Article saved!Article saved!

A retired American lawyer has been arrested after two environmental protesters blocking a road in Panama were killed.

The harrowing incident occurred on a section of the Pan-American Highway, in the Chame district, about 55 miles west of the capital, Panama City.

In a video captured by news photographers who were covering the protest, the suspect -  identified as 77-year-old Kenneth Franklin Darlington Salas by TVN Noticias - can be seen walking towards the group of demonstrators and appearing to ask them to move.

TVN reported that the lawyer allegedly asked several people who the leaders of the demonstration were. The protesting teachers informed him that there were no leaders, so he replied: "I don't want to talk to women. I want to talk to men."

The footage revealed him being confronted by three men, two in black t-shirts and one in red. One of the men can be heard saying: "Why don't you shoot?" while others shouted at the suspected gunman: "Are you going to kill someone?" to which he responded: "Do you want to be the first?" according to the outlet.

After a few seconds, Darlington Salas can be seen taking a firearm out of his trouser pocket before starting to clear the barricade on the motorway, still arguing with protesters.

He then opened fire - in front of a large number of photographers and television crews there to film the protest - and pierced a protester holding a flag and then a second man who went to confront him. Darlington then walked off and removed tree trunks that had been blocking the road.

The first victim - seen in the footage wearing a black t-shirt, blue hat, and carrying a flag - dropped to the ground immediately. As the man in red backs away, Darlington shoots at the second victim man sporting a black t-shirt.

He can be seen holding his shoulder, in pain, and staggering over to the side of the road where he eventually falls down.

According to The Times. One of the victims, Abdiel Díaz, tragically passed at the scene. The other victim, Iván Rodríguez, 62, was transported to the Juan Vega Méndez clinic in San Carlos but died on arrival.

wp-image-1263236092 size-full
Protesters gather to stage a demonstration against the approval of a 40-year mining contract. Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty

For the past three weeks, the environmental protesters have 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.

After two of the demonstrators were fatally shot, Darlington Salas was arrested immediately and appeared before a judge in the town of La Espiga on Wednesday (November 8) afternoon. He remained in custody after a two-hour hearing.

Eliécer Plicett - a lawyer for the deceased victims - stated that the suspected gunman was being charged with murder and illegal possession of a gun, per TVN Noticias. However, it has been noted by local media that he could avoid jail time because of his age.

The president of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, sent his condolences to the late protesters' families on X, writing: "I express my condolences to the families of the two citizens who lost their lives in an incident that occurred this Tuesday in a sector of Panama Oeste. This is a fact that has no place in a society called to be supportive like ours."

Featured image credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty