Though much of the world has openly shamed and even threatened death against Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer for killing the beloved Cecil the Lion last month in Zimbabwe, a boyhood friend of Palmer’s has described him as helpful and generous.
Chad Wagner said he grew up with Palmer in Lisbon, North Dakota, and knew him and his family well, ABC News reported. Wagner has known Palmer, who has been hiding from the public since he was revealed as the hunter who killed Cecil, for about 50 years, and described him as a man who would give anyone the shirt off his own back, Wagner told ABC News.
Palmer paid $55,000 to kill the lion, the Telegraph reported. Animals are not allowed to be killed in Hwange National Park, where Cecil roamed, but it was reported Cecil was baited to come about a half-mile outside the park boundaries before Palmer shot him with a crossbow.
Before hunting big game in Africa, Palmer hunted geese and deer with Wagner in their youth, Wagner said. The two also played basketball together. Palmer’s family was also fairly prominent in their 2,000-person town.
“His dad was a doctor,” Wagner told ABC News. “His family was very well liked. ... Obviously, being the doctor in town ... you’re one of the most prominent people in town.”
Described as a leader and honor student, Palmer eventually went on to become a dentist, which surprised no one in their town, Wagner said. He eventually opened the River Bluff Dental clinic in the suburbs of Minneapolis, achieving success that allowed him to travel the globe on big-game hunts. The practice has been shuttered temporarily since July, after the news of the lion hunt.
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Palmer released a statement in July saying he thought the hunting trip he took in Zimbabwe was properly handled, and that he did not know Cecil was a local favorite, the Star Tribune reported.
"Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," Palmer said in a statement.