Updated Oct. 12, 2020, at 2:36 p.m.
Denver police have identified Matthew Dolloff, 30, as the man being held in the investigation of a deadly shooting amid confrontational public rallies on Saturday.
Dolloff was working as a private security guard for 9News at the time of the shooting, according to the TV station. Denver police confirmed that the suspect was a security guard and said he had “no affiliation with Antifa,” though right-wing figures have been quick to allege political connections.
The TV station later said Dolloff worked for the security company Pinkerton. But no one by his name holds a license to act as a security guard in the city of Denver, according to city officials.
“If he was operating as a security guard, he was in violation of the law,” wrote city spokesman Eric Escudero in an email. Providing paid security without a license comes with a fine of up to $999 and a year in jail, and could prompt administrative action against the employer, according to Escudero.
The Denver City Attorney’s Office is investigating the licensing question, which could bring additional criminal charges for Dolloff and disciplinary action against the security-guard company, said spokesperson Ryan Luby. It is still “unclear” whether 9News could face any action related to the potentially unlicensed guard, Luby said.
Pinkerton, the security firm, did not immediately return a request for comment, but put out a statement on Monday saying Dolloff was subcontracted through another company.
“We take loss of life in any situation very seriously and are our hearts go out to those impacted by this situation,” the statement said. “As it relates to the incident in Denver on October 10, the agent in question is not a Pinkerton employee but rather a contractor agent from a long standing industry vendor. Security professionals often serve as guides to protect media crews during potentially dangerous situations or hostile environments. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement authorities in their investigation.”
The shooting happened just after a “patriot muster” rally dispersed. Right-wing demonstrators in military-style gear had assembled in Civic Center Park, facing off with counter-demonstrators in shouting matches throughout the afternoon.
The investigation is ongoing, police said, and arrest documents remain sealed. The details of the shooting, including the name of the victim, remain unconfirmed.
Dolloff appeared briefly at a virtual court hearing Sunday morning, cupping his ear as he apparently struggled to hear the conversation of a magistrate and his public defender, Valerie Cole.
“I can hear you enough, ma’am,” he said, in one of his few statements before the court, after Magistrate Kathryn Hecker asked whether he could hear. He is being held without bond.
Dolloff’s prior court records show a handful of traffic and money-related cases. A Facebook account for someone sharing his full name and other biographical information was connected to a farm selling honey, puppies and poultry in northeast Colorado.
The farm’s now-suspended website showed Dolloff was to be married this year. A connected YouTube account showed farm footage and occasional political content, including footage of Occupy Wall Street and a Bernie Sanders rally in 2016. Right-wing influencers seized on those social media postings, which are unconfirmed, to pin him as a leftist and claim the shooting was politically motivated. Meanwhile, some local politicians condemned the rush to blame.
Videos and photographs from the scene appear to show the victim having a tense argument with a man before approaching a second man. In photographs, the victim appears to slap and then spray mace at the second man, who then appears to fire a gun. The apparent shooter was immediately detained.
John Tiegen, the organizer of the right-win “patriot muster” that preceded the shooting, said he didn’t know whether the victim was connected to his group, who had assembled with military-style gear.
“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of a fellow American patriot after a rally in Denver on Saturday. As the event ended and the bulk of us were returning to our vehicles, a single gunshot was heard back towards the area where the event had occurred. I learned shortly after that a man who was there showing support for America and its foundational principles had been killed,” he wrote in a statement.
“It’s still unclear if the victim had been at the rally or just in the vicinity. An investigation is underway to determine how and why the shooting occurred. Regardless of the circumstances, I want to send my deepest condolences to the family of the victim.”
Tiegen went on to blame left-wing opponents for making targets of people in patriotic attire, though the circumstances of the shooting remain unclear. Left-wing organizers had held a “Black Lives Matter Anti-Fascist Soup Drive” Saturday, announced soon after Tiegen’s event. Their goal, organizers said, had been to “outnumber and outshine these fascists anytime they show their faces.”
Demonstrators across the political spectrum who have attended rallies in recent months insist that they only want to defend themselves. The dynamic on the streets has grown more tense in recent weeks, with armed and armored groups a more frequent sight.