CHAME, PANAMA – A retired American attorney has been detained in Panama following a violent incident that resulted in the death of two environmental activists. The event, which occurred on a busy highway on Tuesday afternoon, was recorded and subsequently shared on the internet.
The man, identified as 77-year-old Kenneth Darlington, found himself in the middle of a traffic jam caused by protesters on the Pan-American Highway in Chame, approximately 50 miles west of Panama City. The demonstrators were protesting a government mining contract that would allow a Canadian company to continue copper extraction for at least two more decades.
The video footage shows Darlington, with gray hair, a beard, and glasses, approaching the protesters. He is seen engaging in a heated exchange with the activists before pulling out a firearm. As he attempts to clear some of the items blocking the road, he begins to brandish the weapon.
The situation escalates as some protesters confront Darlington. He raises his right hand and seemingly fires at one of the demonstrators, who collapses to the ground clutching a flag. Darlington then fires again, hitting another man who stumbles to the side of the road before falling.
According to Agence France-Presse, one victim died at the scene, while the other succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. The deceased were identified as Abdiel Díaz, an educator, and Iván Mendoza, the spouse of a teacher in the San Carlos district.
Darlington, who holds dual American and Panamanian citizenship, was presented before a judge in La Espiga on Wednesday afternoon and was subsequently detained. Local media speculate that due to his age, he may avoid prison and instead be sentenced to house arrest if found guilty.
The protest, now in its third week, has been extensively covered by local media who captured the fatal shooting. The roadblocks have reportedly led to daily business losses of up to $80 million and have caused school closures nationwide for over a week.
Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo expressed his condolences to the victims’ families via social media, stating that such violence has no place in Panamanian society.