You’re looking at one of the most hated people on the Internet right now.
On Tuesday morning, a Minnesota dentist named Walter Palmer woke up a relative unknown – until it came to light that he had killed one of Zimbabwe’s most beloved lions, Cecil. The animal was allegedly illegally lured from the Hwange National Park in July and killed by Palmer’s gun. (In a statement, Palmer said that to his knowledge, everything about his hunt had been legal.)
Throughout the Twitterverse and beyond, his name evoked wrath – from celebrities to animal lovers and beyond. As the news spread, Palmer, 55, spoke with regret for “my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
Palmer said he “relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.” The Associated Press reported that two Zimbabweans, Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Trymore Ndlovu, were arrested for illegally hunting a lion and appeared in court on Wednesday.
But who is Walter Palmer? Here’s what we know.
He’s not talking publicly right now.
Dr. Palmer performs general and cosmetic dentistry in Bloomington, Minnesota, and his office was completely shut on Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune. A profile on Palmer’s business website said he hails from North Dakota and graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota. Palmer, his wife and their two children live in nearby Eden Prairie. A knock at the door Tuesday by the Star Tribune brought no response, and a neighbor described the Palmer family as very private.
He’s been in trouble with the law before.
According to a New York Times story from 2009, Palmer pleaded guilty to a license violation after shooting a black bear in Wisconsin in 2008. For that offense, he was sentenced to one year’s probation and fined nearly $3,000. In 2003, Palmer was convicted in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, for fishing without a license and paid a small fine for the misdemeanor, the Tribune said. In 2009, the Star Tribune reported that Palmer agreed to a settlement with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry over allegations that he sexually harassed a receptionist, who was also his patient, after she alleged that Palmer made comments about her breasts, buttocks and genitalia. He did not admit guilt, but he settled and paid $127,500 to the woman.
He has a lengthy list of kills.
Palmer’s kills are listed by an organization called Safari Club International, a big-game hunting group which has recorded 43 kills for the dentist, all by bow and arrow, the Star Tribune said. The Tribune reports that his list includes moose, deer, buffalo, a polar bear and a mountain lion. Included in a 2005 record book are photos of Palmer kneeling behind a dead lion, as well as him with an African elephant in Zimbabwe in 2013.
He began shooting at age 5.
“I don’t have a golf game,” Palmer told the New York Times in 2009 in the (aforementioned) story about elk hunting. He learned to shoot at age 5 and was described in the story as holding a “purist’s reputation for his disinclination to carry firearms as backup.” At the time, Palmer was apparently “capable of skewering a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow.”
He takes pride in his dental work.
In a promotional video for his River Bluff Dental practice, one woman said, “He just takes such pride in his work, and he is the best of the best.” In another video, one satisfied patient said, “He took a nice smile and made it amazing.”
When he’s not working, he’s outdoors.
“He is a North Dakotan and enjoys all outdoor activities,” reads a bio on a website for Palmer’s practice. “Anything allowing him to stay active and observe and photograph wildlife is where you will find Dr. Palmer when he is not in the office.”