MINNEAPOLIS — What will his first day back at work be like?
Will protests greet Walter Palmer, the American dentist vilified worldwide for killing a prized African lion, when he returns to his Bloomington, Minnesota, practice Tuesday?
Or will he slip in with little fanfare?
Palmer’s office reopened several weeks ago without him and now he’s decided the time is right for him to start back to work.
“I’m a health professional,” Palmer told The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune in a weekend interview. “I need to get back to my staff and my patients, and they want me back. That’s why I’m back.”
Police plan to keep an eye on developments at the dental practice, but no officers will be on hand.
“We still have a security camera out in the lot there,” Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley told the AP and Star Tribune.
Out of sight
Palmer has kept a low profile during the six weeks since he was identified by British media as the big-game hunter who killed Cecil the lion near Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Cecil was killed in early July.
“I’ve been out of the public eye seeing family and friends,” he said, denying he was in hiding.
“This has been especially hard on my wife and my daughter,” he told the AP and Star Tribune. “They’ve been threatened in the social media, and again … I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all.”
In the crosshairs
To say Cecil’s death made the dentist a wanted man is putting it mildly.
Social media groaned under the hashtag #WalterPalmer.
“A poor excuse of a human being,” “A killer” and “Satan” were just a few of the Twitter insults hurled in his direction.
Celebrities like model Cara Delevingne, actress Alyssa Milano and TV host Sharon Osbourne — who have a combined total of 8.39 million followers — joined in as well.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said in July that Cecil was lured out of the national park and shot with a compound bow.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” Palmer said late July in a statement. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”
In Sunday’s interview, Palmer said Cecil’s tracking collar could not be seen at night when the hunt took place. It was buried in his mane.
The dentist also said it’s not illegal to take a collared lion.
Two Zimbabweans have been charged in the case, and officials in the African nation say they want Palmer extradited to face charges.
The dentist has indicated that he’ll cooperate, although he said in a statement that he had yet to be contacted by anyone about the investigation.
In Sunday’s interview with the AP and Star Tribune, Palmer was joined by attorney Joe Friedberg, who said he’s working as an unpaid consultant to the dentist.
Friedberg said Palmer “doesn’t need a lawyer” until either the Zimbabwean or U.S. government makes a legal claim.
“There are no official allegations that he’s done anything wrong,” Friedberg said.