Denver DA drops murder charge against unlicensed security guard who killed protester

A Denver judge on Monday agreed to drop all charges against the unlicensed security guard who shot and killed a demonstrator in 2020 after opposing political rallies in Civic Center.

Matthew Dolloff, 32, shot and killed Lee Keltner, 49, on Oct. 10, 2020, during a confrontation between the pair toward the end of a day of demonstrations. Keltner took part in a conservative “Patriot Rally” gathering, which was met by left-leaning counter-protesters.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann earlier this month confirmed she planned to dismiss the second-degree murder charge against Dolloff during Monday’s hearing, saying prosecutors could not disprove his claim that he fired in self-defense.

Denver District Judge Brian Whitney granted that request Monday. He did not allow Lee Keltner’s sister, Suzan Keltner, 48, to speak during the brief court hearing, although she had prepared a victim impact statement and expected to address the court.

“It is clear Matt Dolloff shot my brother, Lee Keltner, between the eyes,” she said after the hearing, reading from the statement she’d hoped to recite in court. “Our family believes this is an assassination of our patriotic brother because he loved our country and he loved our family.”

Suzan Keltner protested in front of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse for hours in the snow Monday with a small group of Keltner’s supporters who were upset that McCann dropped the murder charge.

“Words don’t constitute being shot in the face,” she said. “A slap in the face doesn’t constitute murder, either.”

Doug Richards, Dolloff’s attorney, said after the hearing that Dolloff was relieved the case “was finally behind him.”

On the day of the shooting, Dolloff was working as a security guard for 9News, although he was not licensed to do so. Police kept attendees of the two opposing demonstrations separate for most of the day, until the events began to wind down. That’s when Keltner and a counterprotester got into an argument near the Denver Art Museum.

A 9News producer was filming the argument — with Dolloff providing security — when Keltner suddenly turned his attention to the producer and demanded he stop filming. Dolloff stepped in between the two and physically blocked Keltner.

Then, in a seconds-long confrontation that was captured frame-by-frame by a Denver Post photographer, Keltner slapped Dolloff in the face, and Dolloff pulled a gun from his belt and shot Keltner as Keltner discharged bear spray at Dolloff.

Dolloff was immediately arrested. He has argued since the start of the case that he acted in self-defense.

Suzan Keltner said she and her family at first did not speak much publicly about her brother’s killing because they wanted to let the justice system work.

“But we feel like it’s failing,” she said Monday. “You should go in front of your peers and let the jury decide. But to give up before you start? … It just breaks my heart our city has come to this.”

She said she plans to sue Dolloff, Denver, 9News and the security agency that employed Dolloff. She cried throughout Monday’s hearing.

“Lee’s life mattered,” she said.

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