Denver, CO – A man who had been hired to work as a private security guard for a Denver news station fatally shot a patriot demonstrator during a clash on Saturday between the conservative group and counter protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter and antifa.
WARNING: Obscene language and graphic content below.
The victim’s family identified him as 49-year-old Navy veteran Lee Keltner.
“He was murdered because he backed the police,” the victim’s mother, Carol Keltner, wrote in a Facebook post in the wake of the shooting, according to The Denver Post.
“He wasn’t a part of any group,” his son, Johnathon Keltner, told The Denver Post. “He was there to rally for the police department and he’d been down there before rallying for the police department.”
The gunman, later identified as 30-year-old Matthew Dolloff, “was acting in a professional capacity as an armed security guard” for media outlet KUSA at the time of the shooting and was not a protest participant, The Denver Police Department (DPD) tweeted on Sunday afternoon.
KUSA confirmed that it has been hiring private security to accompany its staff members to protests over the course of the past several months.
The media outlet said it contracted with security company Pinkerton for the private security services, but the company said it is not Dolloff’s employer, KUSA reported.
“We are in the process of still gathering information to better understand the incident that occurred in Denver on October 10 involving a contractor agent,” Pinkerton said in a statement. “The agent in question is not a Pinkerton employee. Pinkerton is fully cooperating with law enforcement authorities in their investigation of this matter.”
Pinkerton has not disclosed the name of the company Dolloff actually worked for, according to the news outlet.
Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Marketing and Communications Manager Eric Escudero said that “there is no record” indicating that Dolloff was licensed to work as a security guard at any point in time in Denver, let alone during the protests on Saturday, KUSA reported.
“We do not currently have an active license and have never had an active license for anybody with that name,” Escudero told The Denver Post. “If he was operating as a security guard, he was in violation of the law.”
The shooting occurred near the Denver Public Library and the Denver Art Museum at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, DPD Division Chief Joe Montoya told reporters, according to The Epoch Times.
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.
The counter protest was also sponsored by the Denver Communists, who posted about the event on Facebook.
“We feel it is our responsibility to vocally oppose fascists every time the try to assemble. And we hope you feel the same way!” the group said, according to KUSA. “And what are our options? To cede our streets to them?”
Other groups who attended the counter protest included the H.O.E.S. (Help on Every Street), Anon Resistance Movement, Colorado Socialist Revolution, and the Front Range Mutual Aid Network, according to FOX News.
Hey #JoeBiden, do you still say "It's an idea, not an organization"?
— Mark Vallen 🎃 (@mark_vallen) October 11, 2020
The opposing groups yelled and argued with one another as police worked to keep them separated prior to the deadly confrontation, The Denver Post reported.
One video showed a man wearing a “Black Guns Matter” shirt arguing with a group of people, including Keltner, before Keltner walked off-camera in the direction of the security guard.
Keltner could be seen raising his pepper spray before moving off camera.
The sound of what may have been a gun being chambered was heard in the background.
A second video appeared to start showing the security guard reaching for Keltner’s pepper spray, and Keltner slapping the guard’s face.
A sound similar to that of pepper spray being deployed could be heard a fraction of a second later, immediately followed by a gunshot, the video showed.
Who are the racists again? It’s sure not the patriots! This is the exchange that took place right before the shooting happened, just off camera. Denver, CO.pic.twitter.com/vSVfH44QXE
— Tara LaRosa (@TaraLaRosa) October 11, 2020
Photos published by The Denver Post showed Keltner striking Dolloff and deploying pepper spray at him just prior to the shooting.
Antifa supersoldier Matthew Robert Dolloff attempts to disarm Lee Keltner at the #denvershooting, is rebuffed with a slap, Lee retreats as Dolloff goes for his carry garment while Lee's pepper is at his side, and Lee never battered rather resisted disarmament. In order. pic.twitter.com/l2E0Fc75eR
— Alan Bings (@AlanBings) October 12, 2020
Keltner 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!”
— Pete James Peterson (@PJPNIG) October 11, 2020
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.
He was booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder, and was being held without bond, according to the paper.
UPDATE: Matthew Dolloff (DOB 03-07-1990) is being held for Investigation of First Degree Murder in connection w/the shooting that occurred yesterday at 10 W. 14th Ave. This remains an active investigation; any additional updates will be released as it becomes available. #Denver https://t.co/1Y7Yw7stL0 pic.twitter.com/Va3Lvc1CwT
— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) October 11, 2020
Officers found a can of “mace” and two guns at the scene, The Denver Post reported.
Keltner was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead approximately one hour later, KUSA reported.
I’m sick and TIRED of the “white supremacist” BS!
Lee Keltner was a PATRIOT! pic.twitter.com/KFAT5tt0WV
— samanthamarika (@samanthamarika1) October 12, 2020
A KUSA employee was briefly detained by police, but was released after he provided officers with a statement.
DPD confirmed that the shooting was also captured by a city police surveillance camera, KUSA reported.
Denver City Attorney’s Office spokesperson Ryan Luby told KUSA that the city attorney will decide whether Dolloff will face additional criminal charges “related to the defendant possibly operating as an unlicensed security guard” once the DPD’s investigation into the homicide is completed.
If convicted of working as a private security officer without being licensed, Dolloff would face up to one year in jail and a $999 fine, Escudero told The Denver Post.
“The CAO is also working with the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses to weigh disciplinary action against the security guard company for hiring and deploying an unlicensed guard, one without a license, much less an armed endorsement,” Luby told KUSA.
John “Tig” Tiegen, who helped organize the Patriot Rally, called the shooting “tragic” in an Instagram post on Sunday.
“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of a fellow American patriot after a rally in Denver on Saturday,” Tiegen wrote.
He said that he and other rallygoers were wrapping up the event and returning to their vehicles when the gunshot rang out.
“I learned shortly after that a man who was there showing support for America and its foundational principles had been killed,” Tiegen explained. “I want to send my deepest condolences to the family of the victim.”
“It’s tragic that Americans find themselves in danger just by coming together and showing support for their country,” he continued. “The fact that simple things like wearing patriotic attire now makes you a target in an American city should be a concern for every freedom-loving person. If Americans reach the point that they’re afraid to publicly show support for their country, the radical Marxists have won.”
Tiegen thanked all law enforcement agencies who assisted at the rally.
“While I called for a peaceful rally from the beginning, the Denver Communist Party, ANTIFA and BLM counter protestors demonstrated their inability and unwillingness to hear an opposing view,” he wrote. “We must continue to fight for the principles our country was founded on and not be scared to call out their radical leftist ideology and agenda. Future generations are depending on us in this very moment.”
DPD said on Saturday that Dolloff has “no affiliation with Antifa,” but backtracked on that statement on Sunday, The Epoch Times reported.
“Immediately following the incident, rumors were circulating regarding the suspect’s affiliation with a particular group,” the DPD said. “Investigators are unaware of whether the suspect is personally affiliated with any political organization.”
Dolloff’s social media accounts indicate that he supported Black Lives Matter and had attended multiple protests in the past, The Epoch Times reported.
He also frequently denounced President Donald Trump, shared posts from left-wing sources, and expressed his support for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, according to the paper.