MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The American dentist at the center of an international uproar over the killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe returned to his clinic in suburban Minneapolis Tuesday after weeks out of the public eye.
Walter Palmer entered the clinic in Bloomington at about 7 a.m. without a word to media gathered outside. As he walked from his vehicle, a staff member met him on the sidewalk, grabbed his arm and parted a throng of reporters to rush the dentist to the front door.
Employees also escorted patients inside. Police blocked off an area around the clinic and were working to minimize potential traffic congestion in case of a big protest turnout.
Only a handful of protesters were on hand around sunrise.
Cathy Pierce, wearing a shirt with Cecil’s photo, yelled “Extradite Palmer” as the dentist was whisked inside the Bloomington clinic.
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.
Stephanie Michaelis, a woman who lives near the clinic, came 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.
In an interview Sunday with The Associated Press, Palmer disputed some accounts of the hunt and repeated that he believed he acted legally and was stunned to find out his hunting party had killed one of Zimbabwe’s most treasured animals.
Cecil was a fixture in the vast Hwange National Park and had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University lion research. After Palmer was named in late July as the hunter who killed Cecil, his Bloomington clinic and Eden Prairie home became protest sites, and a vacation property he owns in Florida was vandalized. Palmer was vilified across social media, with some posts suggesting violence against him.