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9News says it requested unarmed security, wasn’t aware Matthew Dolloff had gun before protest shooting

Lee Keltner, a 49-year-old veteran and custom cowboy hat maker, died in the shooting

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Denver television station 9News says its employees were unaware that Matthew Dolloff, a private security guard hired to protect them, was armed before Saturday’s fatal shooting as dueling protests wrapped up in Civic Center Park.

In fact, the station says that when it contracted with the security company Pinkerton to protect its journalists at protests it specifically requested that guards not carry a gun.

“9News contracted with Pinkerton and had directed that security guards accompanying our personnel not be armed,” the station said in a written statement. “None of 9News’ crew accompanied by Mr. Dolloff on Saturday were aware that he was armed.”

Dolloff, 30, is being held for investigation of first-degree murder in the killing of 49-year-old Lee Keltner. 

Matthew Dolloff, 30, is being held for investigation of first-degree murder. (Denver Police Department)

The shooting happened at about 3:30 p.m. near the Denver Art Museum as Dolloff was providing security for a 9News producer. According to court documents, Keltner slapped Dolloff just before the shooting. Keltner fired a stream of mace at Dolloff as he was fatally shot. 

Keltner was a U.S. Navy veteran who operated a hat-making business in the Denver area.

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Pinkerton said in a statement that Dolloff wasn’t actually one of its employees, describing him as a “contractor agent from a long-standing industry vendor.” The statement didn’t specify which vendor he worked for. The statement also didn’t address why Dolloff was armed when 9News had asked otherwise.

“We take loss of life in any situation very seriously and our hearts go out to those impacted by this situation,” the Pinkerton statement says. 

9News said it has been hiring private security to accompany staff at protests for “a number of months.”

Attorney Doug Richards, who said he is representing Dolloff’s family, says Dolloff was acting in self-defense and that he feared for his safety when Keltner reached into his shirt during the seconds-long confrontation leading up the shooting.

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

MORE: Denver security guard acted in self-defense, his lawyer says

The Denver Post reports that Richards says Dolloff was also armed while he was working security Friday night for the U.S. Senate debate between Republican incumbent Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper, which was held at the studio of television station Denver7. The newspaper says that Denver7 specifically asked Pinkerton for unarmed guards for the event.

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

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

Private security guard Matthew Dolloff is taken into custody following a fatal shooting during competing political protests in Denver on Oct. 10, 2020. (CBS4)

Companies that employ unlicensed guards 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.

“Licensed security guard employers that hire unlicensed security guards could face disciplinary actions against their licenses ranging from a fine, to suspension, to revocation,” said Ryan Luby, a spokesman for Denver’s City Attorney’s Office. “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.”

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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