Lee Keltner was the 49-year-old hatter and Navy veteran who police say was shot and killed by a security guard hired by a local television station during coverage of dueling protests in Denver, Colorado.
The shooter has been named as Matthew Robert Dolloff, who is being charged with second-degree murder by the Denver District Attorney.
Keltner was at a Patriot Rally when, police say, he was shot by Dolloff, who had contracted with 9News “to accompany staff at protests.” Dolloff did have some left-wing comments posted on social media, including criticizing President Donald Trump and liking posts favorable to Bernie Sanders. Most of his posts dealt with livestock and selling farming items.
You can see photos of the shooting later in this story, but be aware that they are disturbing. Fox News reported that Keltner was attending a pro-police “Patriot Muster” when he was shot.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Family Called the News of Charges a ‘Positive First Step’
Keltner’s family spoke out after word came that Dolloff would face charges, calling them a “positive first step,” according to CBS Local.
“The Keltner family obviously wants justice for Lee. The charges of 2nd Degree Murder announced today represent a positive first step. The available evidence supports these charges,” the family’s statement read in part.
Friends offered tributes on social media. One, Laura Sanders, wrote: “Lee was a loving husband, father & friend. He was a minister & helped those in need. He has family & friends who are grieving.”
His mother, Carol Keltner, wrote on a Facebook page for a tea party group in another state that Lee attended the Patriot Rally and “after the rally a person on the BLM and Antifa side went up to him said a few nasty words then shot him in the head. He was murdered because he backed the police.” She said his adult son was there.
2. Keltner Owned a Hat Store & Described Himself as an Artist
The Denver Post ran a photo of Keltner from 2015 that showed him “working on a hat at his home-based shop for Crossfire Hats.”
Keltner’s LinkedIn page identifies him as “Owner/hatter of Crossfire hats” in Denver, Colorado. In 2015, The Denver Post did a feature story on Keltner’s hat store.
“Everything I do is custom. I do one hat at a time, I do it right for that customer, and then I move on to the next one,” he said. The Sun reported that Keltner said in 2012 that he was “keeping the West alive, one hat at a time” referring to cowboy hats as the “history of the West” and declaring that he loved “being an artist.”
3. Keltner Was a Navy Veteran Who Was Called a ‘Patriot’ by a Family Friend
The statement was in the name of Keltner’s wife who said the family was “in shock and mourning the loss of a father, grandfather, son, brother and husband” who was “a proud Coloradan, a veteran and an artist,” CBS Local reported, adding that Keltner served in the Navy.
A GoFundMe page to help Keltner’s family has raised more than $26,000. The message on it reads,
This patriot was killed in a pro police rally. This family has had a tremendous amount of loss in the past few months, to a loss of a baby, to losing their mother in law last week, to tragically losing their brother, uncle, father and son this week. If you can donate anything toward the family and funeral cost that would be greatly appreciated. Everything raised will go to Lee Keltner sister Suzan Keltner. I am a good friend of Lee’s sisters Suzan and decided to set up the fundraiser for the money to go to the family. Suzan is set as the beneficiary on this account. All money will go to Lee’s family including his wife and kids. Please respect this family in the time of their grieving. I will not be speaking to any press out of respect to the family.
However, one man has alleged that Keltner threatened him before the shooting. He said he wasn’t armed.
He alleged that Keltner threatened him with violence and attacked the news crew. Westword reported that Jeremiah Elliott was the name of the protester in an altercation with Keltner.
Video has emerged of that altercation:
4. A Series of Dramatic Photos Show the Shooting
According to 9News, a “Patriot Rally” was held, as well as a counter protest from a group called “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive.” A local talk show host claimed the man who died was part of the Patriot Rally and was “defending himself with bear spray.” The photos do show Keltner touching Dolloff’s face. A police commander said initially that it wasn’t clear whether the victim was at the Patriot Rally or not.
Talk show host Richard Randall wrote on Twitter, “I was interviewing a woman about 10 yards away when THIS happened. The man on the left had just left the event held by Tig & other patriots. He was defending himself with bear spray. He was shot in the face & has died. 2 suspects in custody.”
Here are some of the photos that were published on Getty Images:
Others posted photos indicating Keltner was backing up.
5. Denver Police Said the Shooting Occurred as Protest Activity ‘Was Starting to Break Up’
Comparison of relative positions during slap and during shooting, further proving victim was backing up. pic.twitter.com/AigzzS0iqH
— SlavTrapGod (@slavtrapgod) October 11, 2020
“ALERT : Officers are investigating a shooting that occurred in the Courtyard by the Art Museum. 1 victim transported to the hospital their condition is unknown, 1 suspect in custody,” Denver police wrote on Twitter in their initial post on the situation.
I was interviewing a woman about 10 yards away when THIS happened. The man on the left had just left the event held by Tig & other patriots. He was defending himself with bear spray. He was shot in the face & has died. 2 suspects in custody. pic.twitter.com/McZUf3RZDW
— Richard Randall (@RANDALLONRADIO) October 11, 2020
Police said the shooting broke out as protest activity started to end around 3:30 p.m. Seven minutes later, officers indicated that shots had been fired. They already had someone in custody who turned out to be Dolloff.
According to an arrest affidavit summarized in The Denver Post, Keltner “became involved in a dispute with Dolloff and a 9News producer, whom Dolloff was guarding,” with Keltner slapping Dolloff “on the side of his head,” and firing the gun as Keltner “discharged pepper spray at Dolloff.”
Matthew Robert Dolloff’s social media accounts did have some liberal leanings. “F*** this guy,” he wrote of Trump in 2016. Authorities have not ascribed any political motive for the shooting, though.
He called a reporter who posted a pro-Joe Biden headline an “establishment prick” on Twitter. Most of his Twitter posts deal with livestock. For example, he posted about honey and turkeys.
He did post a video showing him at an Occupy Denver protest.
He liked a man’s tweet in 2016 that read, “Me and @BernieSanders. #FeelTheBern.” He also liked a woman’s tweet that read, “The confederate flag should be treated just like the swastika. #tytlive” and anti-Trump and Ben Carson tweets. He also liked a tweet that read, “Also, look at how cute these Bernie bumper stickers are. #tytlive.”
Police denied that Dolloff was affiliated with antifa (anti-fascist).
“Update: Further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with Antifa. Additional information will be released as it becomes available,” Denver police wrote on Twitter.
The police commander said Mace was recovered at the scene.
“There was a verbal altercation that transpired at the area of the shooting that was between the art museum and the Denver public library. A firearm was discharged. An individual was shot and later pronounced deceased. There were two guns recovered at the scene,” the commander said at the scene.
Police wrote, “Further investigation has revealed that, at the time of the shooting, the suspect was acting in a professional capacity as an armed security guard for a local media outlet and not a protest participant. Immediately following the incident, rumors were circulating regarding the suspect’s affiliation with a particular group. Investigators are unaware of whether the suspect is personally affiliated with any political organization.” Dolloff did not have a license, according to The Washington Post.