U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

TV producer arrested, released, after the channel’s private security guard shoots a man at dueling Denver protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
October 10, 2020
Location
Denver, Colorado

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Status of Charges
Not charged
Arresting Authority
Denver police department
Unnecessary use of force?
No

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
October 10, 2020

A 9NEWS producer was arrested alongside a private security guard hired by the TV station, after the guard was involved in a shooting at the site of dueling right- and left-wing protests in Denver, Colorado, on Oct. 10, 2020.

A “Patriot Rally” was organized for 2 p.m. at the park next to the state Capitol; a counter-protest “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” was planned for 1:30 p.m. at the Civic Center to “drown out” the rally, 9NEWS reported.

As the protests were winding down at around 3:30 p.m., there was a confrontation between opposing protesters near the courtyard of the Denver Art Museum, according to the channel’s report. An unnamed 9NEWS producer was filming as a man attempted to de-escalate the fight. One of the men, later identified as Lee Keltner, eventually pulled out a can of pepper spray, threatening to spray a protester wearing a “Black Guns Matter” T-shirt.

At the 1:30 mark in the producer’s footage of the incident, Keltner appears to notice the producer filming and Denver Post photojournalist Helen Richardson documenting the scene. Keltner walks toward them and out of the frame, and someone can be heard saying, “This is not the place for a camera.”

“Get the cameras out of here or I’m going to fuck you up,” the man continues. It is unclear in the footage that follows whether the speaker was Keltner and whether he then pushes the 9NEWS producer or immediately begins a confrontation with the crew’s security guard, Matthew Dolloff. As the producer backed away from the scuffle, Keltner aimed his spray can at Dolloff as the security guard reached to his belt, according to a police affidavit.

According to the footage posted by 9NEWS, the producer stopped recording on his phone for the next 12 seconds, during which Keltner pepper sprayed Dolloff, who had drawn a handgun, and Dolloff shot Keltner. Those moments, however, were captured by Richardson.

Both Dolloff and the 9NEWS producer were arrested by Denver Sheriff Department deputies, who arrived at the scene within seconds. The producer resumed filming after the shooting, and can be heard identifying himself as a member of the press to officers and informing them that he had a press pass and a 9NEWS hat in his pocket.

The producer also said that the man who was shot “was going to get me.”

“That guy [Dolloff] just saved my fucking life, you know that, right?” the producer can be heard telling officers.

Dolloff can also be heard identifying himself as security for 9NEWS.

Keltner was transported to a local hospital where he died later that day.

After initially being placed under arrest, the 9NEWS producer was released from police custody that evening without charges and is not considered a suspect, the outlet reported.

The station did not respond to an email requesting comment and identification of the producer.

9NEWS management released a statement concerning the incident that read, in part: “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.”

The station’s management also stated that the news crew Dolloff was accompanying was unaware that he was carrying a firearm, and the station had instructed the security firm that security guards for its news crews should not be armed.

Pinkerton told The New York Times in a statement that Dolloff was not an employee of the firm, but a contractor from Isborn Security. Both Pinkerton and 9NEWS said they had no knowledge that Dolloff was not licensed to work as a security guard.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]