Panama Footballer Gilberto Hernandez Shot Dead
A member of Panama's national soccer team, Gilberto Hernández, was tragically shot and killed while spending time with friends outside his mother's residence. The assailants, who were in a taxi, opened fire, resulting in Gilberto's death and injuries to seven others. This incident occurred in Colon, a city known for its high levels of violence, as reported by both the police and witnesses on Monday.
Gilberto Hernández, a 26-year-old defender, became the second member of the national soccer team to be killed in Colon in the last six years. Authorities have reported the arrest of one suspect in connection with Sunday's tragic killing. Colon is located approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Panama City, serving as a crucial point where ships enter or exit the Caribbean Sea through the Panama Canal.
“He was with childhood friends and they planned to go to the beach in the afternoon when the shooting happened,” said a worker at a nearby restaurant who gave only her first name as Rosa, fearing retaliation. ”We’re sad, the street is mourning.”
Police were stationed on a nearby corner near a church on Monday afternoon following the incident. In an early morning operation on Monday, law enforcement authorities arrested one suspect during a raid on an apartment complex in Colon. The identity of the suspect has not been disclosed, and no motive for the attack has been provided at this time.
Panama's Colon province, which has a population of approximately 300,000 people, reported 102 homicides last year. This figure was nine fewer than the previous year, according to government data. Authorities attribute a significant portion of the violence in the region to competition and conflicts related to drug trafficking.
The province of Colon has a long-standing history of experiencing high unemployment rates and elevated levels of poverty. Local residents have reported that incidents of shootings, like the one that tragically took the life of Gilberto Hernández, have sadly become a routine occurrence in the area.
Antonio Smith, a 60-year-old resident in the area, expressed deep concern about the current state of crime, stating, "Right now crime is at another level." He suggested that the region needs to take a more assertive approach, similar to the heavy-handed tactics employed by El Salvador President Nayib Bukele. Bukele has initiated an aggressive crackdown on street gangs, resulting in the imprisonment of tens of thousands as part of his strategy to combat gang-related violence.
Antonio Smith mentioned that just on Monday morning, another shooting occurred near the location where Gilberto Hernández was attacked and killed. He described the situation as a daily occurrence in the neighborhood, where gunfire is so frequent that it disrupts daily life to the extent that one hasn't even had breakfast before hearing it.
In 2017, midfielder Amílcar Henríquez suffered a tragic fate when he was shot and killed in the Colon province of Panama. Henríquez was a notable member of Panama's national soccer team, which achieved the historic feat of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in the nation's history.
Gilberto Hernández was a player for the Independent Athletic Club, which was the reigning champion of Panama's professional soccer league.
As a member of the national team, Hernández participated in a friendly match against the world champion Argentina in March. Panama lost the game 2-0 in Buenos Aires, and after the match, Hernández and his teammates had the opportunity to take photos with Argentine star Lionel Messi.
Manuel Arias, the president of the Panamanian Soccer Federation, expressed his condolences on a platform (referred to as "X," formerly known as Twitter), stating that Hernández was "a professional player who tragically lost his life, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time." He emphasized that this incident exemplified the violence that plagues society and the urgent need to combat it.