DENVER (AP/CBS4) — A defense attorney asked a judge Friday to lower bail for a television station security guard charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of a pro-police demonstrator following opposing protests this month in Denver.
Public defender Valerie Cole argued in Denver District Court that Matthew Dolloff’s bond should be reduced from $500,000 to between $25,000 and $50,000, citing his deep ties to the community and his lack of a criminal record.
She also indicated she would argue that Dolloff, 30, was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 49-year-old Lee Keltner while protecting a KUSA-TV producer covering the Oct. 10 “Patriot Muster” demonstration and “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” counter-protest.
“The district attorney has already declined to file a charge of first-degree murder,” Cole said during the virtual hearing. “I think that speaks to the obvious nature, the obvious questions of self-defense in this particular case.”
Prosecutors opposed reducing bond and doubted Dolloff was defending himself.
“The court needs to consider the public safety and the community safety risk that is out there should the bond be posted,” prosecutor Austin Leighty said. “And an unquestioned fact in this case: Mr. Dolloff brought a gun to downtown Denver and killed somebody.”
Judge John Madden said he hoped to issue a ruling on the bond motion and several others early next week.
Cole, Dolloff’s public defender, also argued for tighter constraints on publicity of the case hearings. She said Dolloff has been in solitary confinement at Denver’s jail and will be “for the foreseeable future” because of “prejudicial” media coverage, even though he’s not received any personal threats.
However, his family has, and receives them daily, she said. The family is currently staying in an anonymous location.
She told the court that on Oct. 10th, the incident was the No. 1 trending story nationally on Twitter. She expressed concern at the ability to find unprejudiced jurors should the case go to trial.
“This is absolutely a high-profile case,” Judge Madden agreed, but he countered that denying a public trial is actually a violation of the U.S. Constitution. He ended that part of the discussion with a promise to examine the nature of each upcoming hearing and to rule on each separately.
Police say Keltner was arguing with a Black man as the rallies broke up before getting into an altercation with Dolloff.
Keltner slapped Dolloff in the head, and Dolloff pulled out a handgun and shot Keltner as Keltner fired pepper spray at him, according to an arrest affidavit. A cellphone video taken by KUSA’s producer, whose name hasn’t been released, suggests Keltner was upset his initial dispute was being recorded.
It shows Keltner in a confrontation with a man wearing a T-shirt that read, “Black Guns Matter.” A bystander is trying to defuse the argument.
The video then shows Keltner, holding a spray can, walking out of view. A man’s voice — it’s unclear if it’s Keltner — is heard saying the area was no place for cameras.
“Get the cameras out of here or I’m going to f— you up,” the unidentified man says. Keltner and Dolloff are then shown scuffling before the video stops.
The producer resumes filming after the shooting and tells responding officers he is with the press and says of Keltner, “That guy was going to get me.” He also says the security guard shot Keltner because Keltner used pepper spray.
Police say they found two guns but didn’t reveal whom they belonged to.
William Boyle, an attorney for Keltner’s widow, told The Associated Press on Friday that the family is “still struggling.”
“Losing a patriarch of your family, of course, is devastating under normal circumstances,” he said. “When it’s done under the microscope and in such a politically charged atmosphere, in such a divisive atmosphere, it of course makes it even worse.”
Dolloff faces between 16 and 48 years in prison if he is convicted of second-degree murder. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 20.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)