Tourist shot in old city
PANAMA. On the eve of the International Day of Tourism, while President Ricardo Martinelli was still basking in the glow of his appearan...
PANAMA. On the eve of the International Day of Tourism, while President Ricardo Martinelli was still basking in the glow of his appearance on the world stage at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the drive by shooting of a tourist and a restaurant worker outside a trendy restaurant in Casco Viejo, underlined the growing concerns of the community about escalating crime in Panama.
The shooting took place on Friday at 9:30 p.m. outside newly opened Mayal’s Coffee Lounge on Avenue A, close to Cathedral Square and only a few short blocks from the Presidential palace.
Injured and taken to intensive care was a 54 year-old Frenchman and a 28 year-old Panamanian restaurant worker.
The event was witnessed by American Airlines employee Ann Lowe. She and her husband, Tony, own and live in the building in which the restaurant is located. It is close to a poorly maintained, orange painted and graffiti-daubed building long believed to be a drug house, and the scene of previous drive by shootings.
Said Mrs Lowe: “I was standing on the balcony looking down. Two people were sitting at a table on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant when a car drove slowly by. When it got near the old monastery ruins on the other side of the road, there were a least seven shots fired from the rear of the car, which then took off.
“I saw the doorman lying on the floor and at first thought he had dived to safety, until I saw the blood. The male tourist had disappeared. I was told later that he had run inside to avoid the gunfire and was hit going through the doorway. I ran to get my keys and ran downstairs.”
The police were quick to arrive and the injured men were taken to hospital. The doorman, with wounds to the arm was treated and released. The tourist was admitted to intensive care.
“I still don’t feel afraid of living in the area” said Mrs Lowe. “Generally speaking, it is a good place to live, but there are pockets where criminals hang out which need to be cleaned up. The owners of the buildings should be compelled to take action.”
She said that until about three months ago, the reputed drug house emitted ear shattering music at all hours. “After many complaints, that has now been stopped.”
Other residents in the area complain of similar noise problems, and express concern about the existence of gangs in the area, now home to many well to do expatriates and city notables.
The door of the Mayal Coffee Lounge now contains a bullet and there are bullet scars on the outide wall, according to witnesses.
A police spokesperson requested that the names of the injured not be used. The injured tourist has been moved from intensive care to a private room, and has been visited by relatives.