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Denver security guard shot at protester out of self-defense, lawyer says

A man sprays Mace, left, as another man fires a gun Saturday in Denver.
A man sprays Mace, left, as another man fires a gun after opposing protests Saturday in Denver.
(Helen H. Richardson / Denver Post)

An armed security guard for a television station who is suspected of fatally shooting a man after dueling protests in Denver was acting in self-defense when he opened fire, the guard’s lawyer said Monday.

Matthew Dolloff, 30, is in jail amid a first-degree murder investigation into Saturday’s shooting, which occurred as people filed out of Civic Center Park following opposing demonstrations — a “Patriot Muster” and a “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” counter-protest.

Doug Richards, who said he is representing Dolloff’s family, said the man who was shot had reached into his shirt, which made Dolloff fear for his safety, leading him to fire his gun. He said images of the scene captured by the Denver Post show that Dolloff had put himself between the man and a reporter from KUSA-TV whom Dolloff was working to protect.

“He was doing what he was supposed to be doing there,” Richards said.

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Police have said two guns and a can of Mace were found at the scene but declined Monday to release further details, including whom the guns belonged to, because they do not want to harm the ongoing investigation, department spokesperson Jay Casillas said. The document laying out the reasons for Dolloff’s arrest remains sealed.

Authorities have not identified the man who was killed, but his son told the Denver Post that it was his father, Lee Keltner, a 49-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who operated a hat-making business in the Denver area.

Armed right-wing groups are registering as poll watchers and planning to monitor voting places during the presidential election.

Denver officials say Dolloff did not have a license to work as a security guard in the city and were investigating how he was allowed to work anyway.

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Under rules adopted by Denver in 2018, both security companies and the guards they employ must have city licenses. Guards must undergo 16 hours of training and an FBI background check to get a license, and complete eight hours of additional training to renew their license each year, said Eric Escudero, a spokesman for the city’s Excise and Licenses Department. Guards who carry firearms must also be screened by police, he said.

Companies that employ guards who do not have the required permits can have their licenses suspended or revoked and face fines. Individual guards who do not have licenses can be punished with a $999 fine and up to one year in jail.

Dolloff did have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Colorado. It was issued by his local sheriff’s office, but was suspended Monday because of the allegations against him. Elbert County Sheriff Tim Norton said he would decide whether Dolloff would get the five-year permit back based on what happens in the criminal case.

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According to state business records, Dolloff was listed as the registered agent for a farm that raises animals including turkeys, sheep and goats in Elizabeth, a town outside the Denver metropolitan area. No one answered the phone at the farm Monday, and a message left for another person listed in business filings was not returned.

KUSA-TV said Sunday that it had been hiring private security to accompany its staff at protests for a number of months. It said Dolloff was hired through the Pinkerton security company. However, in a statement, Pinkerton said Dolloff was a contract agent, not a Pinkerton employee. The company did not reveal the name of the contract company Dolloff worked for.

“Pinkerton is fully cooperating with law-enforcement authorities in their investigation of this matter,” it said.


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