Denver, CO – An unlicensed armed security guard who fatally shot a patriot demonstrator in the head during a clash between the conservative group and counter protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter and antifa in 2020 is no longer facing a murder charge.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann announced on March 11 that her office opted to drop the second-degree murder charge previously filed against 32-year-old Matthew Dolloff for his role in the October 10, 2020 fatal shooting death of 49-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Lee Keltner, The Denver Post reported.
McCann said her office determined it would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dolloff wasn’t reasonably defending himself when he fired his gun at Keltner during a heated argument at the rally.
Investigators said Dolloff – who had a valid license to carry a handgun but was illegally working as an unlicensed security guard – had been hired by KUSA to help protect a journalist during the rally taking place at the city’s Civic Center, The Denver Post reported.
The shooting occurred near the Denver Public Library and the Denver Art Museum at approximately 3:30 p.m., Denver Police Department Division Chief Joe Montoya said at the time.
Dozens of demonstrators were gathered at the Civic Center for a “Patriot Rally,” which also drew counter protesters and their “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” event, The Denver Post reported.
The “BLM-Antifa” group said their goal was to “drown out” the conservative rallygoers, according to KUSA.
Keltner allegedly yelled at the KUSA journalist, then slapped Dolloff in the head just before deploying a can of bear spray, according to The Denver Post.
Dolloff simultaneously fired his gun at Keltner, who immediately fell backwards onto the pavement, videos showed.
“One less white f—king supremacist!” a man yelled out after the shooting. “F—k yeah! Right in the f—king dome!”
Dolloff dropped his weapon and got onto his knees as officers in riot gear rushed in and took him into custody, photos from The Denver Post showed.
McCann said on Friday that Keltner’s actions just before the shooting “were very threatening.”
“His comments clearly indicated that his intention was to cause injury, or worse, and it mattered what he had with him,” she noted, apparently referring to the canister of bear spray. “It’s a combination of all that, and the people that were with him and their actions and what they were saying.”
The case against Dolloff had been scheduled to go to trial in April, The Denver Post reported.
McCann said her office would have asked the jury to consider lesser charges along with the second-degree murder charge if the case had proceeded.
In the end, prosecutors determined the self-defense argument would have been a factor regardless of the charge.
“Do I think Matthew Dolloff should have been carrying a gun?” McCann told The Denver Post. “No. I don’t think anybody at a rally should be carrying a gun, but they have a right to if they have a concealed weapon permit.”
Keltner’s sister, Suzan Keltner, said the family’s pleas to hold Dolloff accountable fell on deaf ears, KDVR reported.
“It didn’t matter what we said to the DA, they were not going to change their mind,” Suzan said. “They were not going to prosecute this case.”
“They explained to me that because my brother went toward them to tell them to get the camera out of his face, and because my brother slapped him open-handed, he had the right to feel fearful for his life,” she explained, according to KDVR.
McCann acknowledged the dismissal of charges is not “a great resolution” of the situation, but noted she couldn’t ignore what happened prior to and during the incident.
“I have to judge and apply the law to those facts,” she told the Denver Post. “It doesn’t mean that I think Dolloff is a great guy, or that he should’ve done what he did. But legally he’s justified, based on the evidence that we have.”
Dolloff’s attorney, Doug Richards, said he and his client were pleased to know Dolloff won’t be standing trial, The Daily Beast reported.
“I’m just really happy for Matt and his family that the DA finally realized what we’d known all along,” Richards said.