BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KRON/AP) — The Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion returned to work Tuesday, met by a swarm of media and a small group of protesters outside his small dental practice in suburban Minneapolis.
After weeks in hiding, Walter Palmer emerged into public view, as a security guard met the dentist in the parking of his Bloomington office and escorted him inside.
The 55-year-old Palmer broke his silence Sunday, telling the Associated Press that his patients and staff want him to return and insisted he did nothing illegal in the killing of Cecil the lion during a hunt in Zimbabwe’s vast Hwange National Park in July.
The small throng of protesters outside the clinic on Tuesday didn’t match the furor in the days after Palmer was named as Cecil’s killer. Hundreds of people held vigils for the beloved lion with the black mane and forced River Bluff Dental to temporarily close.
Just a few protesters were on site when the dentist appeared shortly after 7 a.m. Cathy Pierce repeatedly yelled “Extradite Palmer!” as he entered the practice.
Pierce said she drove more than an hour from her home in East Bethel to the Bloomington clinic to “fight for animals who can’t fight for themselves.”
She scoffed at Palmer’s suggestion in his interview with the AP that protesters had unfairly targeted his employees and family, in some cases threatening violence.
“We’re not picking on his staff or his family. We’re picking on him,” she said. “We want him to know that we’re not going to forget.”
Stephanie Michaelis, a woman who lives near the clinic, walked over to argue with protesters, telling them to leave Palmer alone. She said the uproar over Cecil’s death was overblown and that people should be more concerned about abortions and threats to human life.
Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said police would be there as long as media were gathered. He said police don’t believe Palmer is unsafe.
A group of half a dozen protesters remained on the sidewalk more than an hour after Palmer entered, holding signs calling for his extradition to Zimbabwe to face punishment. But while Palmer’s guides on the hunt have either been charged or await charges for their involvement in Cecil’s killing, the Zimbabwean government’s pursuit of the dentist has cooled off amid fears it could hamper a hunting industry that is lucrative and important for the country.
It’s been a month since Zimbabwean officials announced that police would process paperwork to extradite Palmer for participating in the hunt, but as of Monday, a police spokeswoman in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, said there were no new developments in the case.
An attorney acting on Palmer’s behalf told AP that he offered to make Palmer available to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to talk about the case several weeks ago, but he hasn’t heard back.