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DA drops charges against unlicensed security guard in fatal shooting

Matthew Dolloff was charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of Lee Keltner at two dueling Denver rallies on Oct. 10, 2020.

DENVER — The District Attorney's Office dropped second-degree murder charges against Matthew Dolloff, the unlicensed security guard accused in a deadly shooting at dueling rallies in downtown Denver in 2020.

Dolloff's attorneys said he was acting in self-defense when he shot Lee Keltner, 49, outside the Denver Art Museum at the tail-end of two dueling rallies on Oct. 10, 2020.

District Attorney Beth McCann released a statement after the case was dismissed Monday.

“Lee Keltner’s death was a tragedy, and I understand that this decision is difficult to accept for those who loved him," McCann said in the statement. "My heart goes out to the friends and family of Mr. Keltner. However, without provocation, Mr. Keltner verbally threatened and physically assaulted Mr. Dolloff and was the initial aggressor before being shot. Under Colorado’s law, Matthew Dolloff had no duty to retreat and was legally justified in his actions. While I do not agree with Mr. Dolloff’s decision to use lethal force, the fact remains he had the right to do so under our law."

McCann added, "I do not believe violence and guns have any place at a peaceful protest. Firearms increase the dangerousness of these gatherings. Sadly, the presence of a firearm escalated an altercation into a deadly situation."

Dolloff pleaded not guilty last May and asked for the case to go to trial.

Keltner, a Navy veteran, worked as a hatter and was also a part of Colorado’s motorcycle community. The Biker Down Charity started a fundraiser for his family, describing him as a husband, father and friend to many.

Credit: Angus TV
Lee Keltner

Keltner's sister, Suzan Keltner, was upset that the court wouldn't allow her to speak at the hearing before the case was dismissed.

"The DA just declined to let me read what it’s done to my family," Suzan said. "We want to see the truth about what happened through our jury trial and want the killer Matt Dolloff held accountable so he can’t do it again. It is clear Matt Dolloff shot my brother Lee Keltner between the eyes. Our family believes this is an assassination of our patriotic brother because he loved our country and loved his family."

Suzan read her statement Monday surrounded by supporters outside of the courthouse after the case was officially dismissed. She read from the statement she said she wanted to read in court.

“It’s the state’s job to deliver justice – to do good for the family members who have suffered the loss over a heinous act that could have been avoided."

> Listen to the full statement in the video below:

The 2020 demonstrations included members of Black Lives Matter as well as people attending what they had dubbed a "Patriot Muster."

Dolloff was contracted through the security company Pinkerton by 9NEWS. It was the practice of 9NEWS for a number of months to contract private security to accompany staff at protests.

RELATED: Excise department revokes license of security company involved in October shooting

Pinkerton subcontracted with another company – Isborn Security Services – to hire Dolloff and told the Denver Department of Excise and Licensing that it was unaware that he did not have a license to work as a security guard in Denver.

Isborn Security Services agreed to surrender its license to operate in Denver.

In June, Denver Department of Excise & Licenses revoked Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations' private security guard employer license. The final decision by the department's Executive Director Ashley Kilroy came after a hearing officer recommended a six-month suspension of Pinkerton's license.

Pinkerton is appealing Denver’s license revocation.

RELATED: Company that hired unlicensed security guard charged in fatal shooting to surrender license

9NEWS management released the following statement about the incident on Oct. 12, 2020:

“9NEWS continues to cooperate fully with law enforcement and is deeply saddened by this loss of life.

“For the past few months, it has been the practice of 9NEWS to contract private security, through an outside firm, to accompany our personnel covering protests. Pinkerton, the private security firm, is responsible for ensuring its guards or those it contracts with are appropriately licensed. 9NEWS does not contract directly with individual security personnel.”