The 30-year-old security guard suspected of shooting and killing a protester in Denver on Saturday was acting in self-defense when he opened fire, an attorney for the suspect’s family said.
During a confrontation, a demonstrator who had attended a “Patriot Rally” in Civic Center — identified by family as Lee Keltner, 49 — struck Matthew Robert Dolloff while holding a can of what appears to be pepper spray, photos of the incident show. Keltner used the spray and Dolloff opened fire, though it’s not clear in the photos which occurred first.
Dolloff saw Keltner reaching into his shirt and feared for his safety, family attorney Doug Richards said.
Police and 9News said Dolloff was working as a contracted security guard for staff of the television station at the time of the shooting, though city officials say they have no record he was licensed to do such work in Denver.
“I think it’s important to recognize that this is somebody who is at the protest working to protect First Amendment rights,” Richards said in an interview Monday. “He was not there on behalf of any organization or to advance any political agenda. You can see in the images that he put his body in between the protester and the reporter. Matt was doing everything he was supposed to do and everything he was trained to do.”
Dolloff had worked for more than a year as a private security guard at a number of events in Colorado, Richards said. The night before the shooting, Dolloff worked as an armed security guard at a debate between Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates, Richards said. That debate was held at Denver7’s television studio and co-hosted by The Denver Post and Colorado Public Radio.
Denver7 on Monday confirmed Dolloff was one of the guards at the debate but disputed that he was armed. “We do not use armed guards,” Holly Gauntt, Denver7’s news director, said in an email. “We have always told Pinkerton that we want unarmed guards.”
Dolloff picked up the security jobs as a contractor through Pinkerton, Richards said. The attorney on Monday said he did not know exactly what security training Dolloff had or what entity provided the training. He also said he didn’t know whether Dolloff had a license to work as a security guard in Denver. Such licenses are required to work in private security in the city.
“Even if he didn’t carry the special Denver security license, it didn’t stop Pinkerton from sending Matt into that job and it doesn’t change the fact that Matt was acting in self-defense,” Richards said.
Pinkerton officials provided a statement Monday offering condolences to people impacted by the shooting.
“As it relates to the incident in Denver on Oct. 10, the agent in question is not a Pinkerton employee but rather a contractor agent from a long-standing industry vendor,” the statement reads. “Security professionals often serve as guides to protect media crews during potentially dangerous situations or hostile environments. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement authorities in their investigation.”
A public relations consultant working for Pinkerton did not respond to a question from The Post asking for the name of the vendor. A representative from 9News on Monday also did not reply to a request by The Post for an interview about the shooting.
The Denver City Attorney’s Office and the city department that handles licensing are investigating Dolloff’s licensing and deciding what punishment, if any, should be levied against involved parties.
“Licensed security guard employers that hire unlicensed security guards could face disciplinary actions against their licenses ranging from a fine to suspension to revocation,” the city attorney’s office said Monday in a statement. “Businesses could also face criminal charges for permitting or directing an unlicensed person to perform security services. Regarding Matthew Dolloff, there could be civil or criminal actions taken, or both, against Mr. Dolloff, Pinkerton, 9News, and/or any other entity that hired and deployed Dolloff in an unlicensed security guard capacity.”
The Elbert County Sheriff’s Office issued a concealed-carry license to Dolloff in June 2018 that was valid for five years, Sheriff Tim Norton said. The sheriff’s office suspended the license after the shooting pending the results of the criminal investigation, he said.
Dolloff worked the security jobs to help pay for his education at University of Colorado Denver, where he had nearly completed an undergraduate degree in political science, Richards said.
Dolloff’s family has received hate mail and death threats because of the shooting, the attorney said.
“They’re essentially in hiding right now because people think that this was a political event,” Richards said.
Dolloff remained in Denver’s Downtown Detention Center on Monday without bond. As of Monday afternoon, he had not been formally charged by prosecutors. He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.