On Oct. 10th, right-wing and left-wing rallies transpired at close proximity with each other in Denver’s Civic Center Park. At 1:30 p.m., the self-proclaimed “Denver Communists,” held a BLM-Antifa Soup Drive; meanwhile, the self-proclaimed “Patriot Muster” held a Patriot Rally at 2:00 p.m. in a nearby location. According to The New York Times, a tweet advocating for the Patriot Rally called for all “patriots” to “Stand up. Show up.” The BLM-Antifa Soup Drive was promoted as a response to accusations that antifa groups throw cans of soup at political opponents.
Prior to these events, Denver police and security guards were preparing themselves for possible acts of violence that could occur between the two groups. Denver police responded to the notice of the rallies on social media stating, “Those who participate in protests, demonstrations, marches or other gatherings, as protected by the First Amendment, are reminded to do so in a lawful manner,” Denver CBS shared.
Matthew Dolloff was among the security guards asked to protect the press from any dangers present at the protests. Dolloff, a white, 30-year-old private security guard, was hired by local NBC affiliate 9News. Lee Keltner, a white, 49-year-old veteran and business owner, was also attending the protests. It is speculated that Keltner specifically attended the protests to support the causes of the Patriot Rally. However, Keltner’s son claims that his father was not affiliated with either group, but rather Keltner solely attended in order to show his support towards the police.
Tensions were high throughout the protests which led to arguments between individuals on opposing sides. Starting as a verbal altercation, Dolloff and Keltner began speaking angrily towards one another near the Denver Art Museum. According to a Denver Post journalist, the altercation escalated as Keltner began spraying mace at Dolloff. Keltner then hit Dolloff on the side of his face, after which Dolloff
responded by taking out a handgun he had been carrying and firing a shot at Keltner. Keltner was
pronounced dead within an hour of arriving at the hospital.
Dolloff was arrested at the scene and taken into custody by the Denver Police Department. Dolloff is being held for “investigation of first degree murder,” Reuter’s explained. Dolloff’s attorney, Doug Richards, argued that Dolloff was acting in self-defense. Richards also argued that the confrontation caused Dolloff to fear for his safety after Keltner reached into his shirt. If convicted of the second-degree murder charge, Dolloff faces a sentence of between 16 to 48 years in prison.
Following the death of Keltner, the news station that hired Dolloff shared that they had specifically requested that security guards protecting the press did not carry guns. The Pinkerton agency that hired Dolloff declared that he was not an employee “but rather a contractor agent from a long standing industry vendor,” according to Reuter’s. As issued by Dolloff’s local sheriff’s office, Dolloff did have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Colorado. However, it has since been suspended due to the shooting.
Sources: Denver CBS, Reuter’s, The New York Times.