Panama international footballer Gilberto Hernandez, 26, killed by gunmen
Posted : 05 September 2023
Gilberto Hernandez, a Panamanian international footballer, tragically lost his life at the age of 26 in a brutal attack by two gunmen in the seaport city of Colón.
The defender for Club Atletico Independiente was confirmed to have passed away by the Panama Football League after a violent incident on Sunday, which also left seven others injured.
Hernandez had been spending time with friends outside the building where his mother lived when two gunmen in a taxi arrived and opened fire, as reported by both police and witnesses on Monday.
Manuel Arias, President of the Panamanian Soccer Federation, lamented that Hernandez had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He was with childhood friends, and they had planned to go to the beach in the afternoon when the shooting occurred," said a worker at a nearby restaurant who wished to remain anonymous, fearing retribution. "We're sad, the street is mourning."
Tragically, Hernandez is the second Panama national team player to be killed in Colón in the last six years. The city recorded 102 homicides last year, with authorities attributing much of the violence to competition in the drug trafficking trade.
Reports indicate that gunmen forced a taxi driver in the city to take them to a building in the Barrio Norte neighborhood on Sunday afternoon. From there, the two attackers opened fire on the group outside Hernandez's mother's residence.
The assailants fled the scene, but authorities apprehended one suspect during a raid on an apartment complex in Colón on Monday. The suspect remains unidentified, and no motive has been disclosed.
Colón province in Panama has historically faced high unemployment and poverty rates. Residents have described incidents like the one resulting in Hernandez's death as commonplace.
"Right now crime is at another level," said Antonio Smith, a 60-year-old resident in the area. "We need to do something like Bukele," he added, referring to the tough tactics of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, who has waged a war against street gangs, resulting in the incarceration of tens of thousands.
Smith reported another shooting near the site of Hernandez's attack on Monday morning, emphasizing the frequency of such incidents in the neighborhood.
Gilberto Hernandez had two appearances for the Panamanian national team, one of which occurred in a 2-0 loss to Argentina, where Lionel Messi scored, in March of the current year. This match marked Argentina's first game in front of home fans since winning the World Cup in Qatar.
Hernandez's grieving father has implored the youth of Colón "to stop the violence" and called on authorities to "launch projects to save the youth from this violence." He also appealed to his son's killers to turn themselves in, although one suspect has been arrested by the police, according to The Guardian.
The Panama federation expressed its condolences and stated, "We regret the sad passing of Gilberto Hernandez. [We] extend condolences to his family and loved ones, as well as to the entire CAI and Panamanian football family."
At the time of his death, Hernandez was playing for Panamanian team Independiente. In April 2017, another Panama player, Amilcar Henriquez, was shot and killed in Colón. Henriquez had earned 85 caps for his country and had been a part of the team's efforts to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.