A man was shot dead as rival rallies played out between far-right groups and Black Lives Matter protesters in Denver on Saturday.
Despite tensions running high between the dueling protests, however, police say the suspected shooter was not a protester, but a “private security guard.” The victim, who has not been identified, was rushed to a hospital but succumbed to his injuries, Denver police confirmed.
The shooting is being investigated as a homicide. Two male suspects were taken into custody right after the incident, but only one of them remained in custody on suspicion of involvement as of Saturday evening, Joe Montoya, the Denver police division chief of investigations, told local media. Amid growing speculation about whether the shooting had a political motive, the police department issued a statement late Saturday noting the suspect had “no affiliation with Antifa.”
On Sunday, Denver police identified the person in custody as 30-year-old Matthew Dolloff, who held for investigation of first degree murder. Denver television station KUSA confirmed that Dolloff was a security guard who worked for Pinkerton and had been hired to provide security fo a news employee covering the protests. The victim in the shooting has not been identified.
Local news station KUSA Channel 9 confirmed that the suspect in police custody was a private security guard hired by the station to accompany Channel 9 staff to the protest.
Police said they had yet to determine if the victim was participating in the nearby protests. The shooting happened in the courtyard of the Denver Art Museum, not far from where hundreds of activists from the far-right and Black Lives Matter had been facing off on Saturday afternoon.
Denver Police public information officer Ana Munoz told The Daily Beast the shooting stemmed from an argument that broke out at 3:40 p.m. in the Denver Art Museum. “The argument turned violent,” Munoz said. “The victim was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.”
A video said to be taken from the scene at the time of the shooting captured the gunfire and the shooting in the distance. After a shot rang out, police officers could be seen rushing to the area as bystanders screamed in horror and yelled, “He’s got a gun!” A man could be seen lying on the ground as authorities handcuffed two other people nearby.
The incident capped off a day of tensions in the city, after one set of protesters hosted a “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” and right-wing groups gathered nearby in response for what was dubbed a “Patriot Muster.” Far-right demonstrators appeared ready to do battle at the event, wielding shields and wearing helmets, but only isolated clashes and screaming matches were reported between the two sides until the gunfire erupted.
A day before the event, the organizer of the Patriot Rally, John Tiegen did an interview with the Steffan Tubbs Show where he was quoted saying of the rally: “I’m not going in there to do violence, but I’m going to be prepared to do violence.”
Tiegen had organized the event after the left-wing Soup Drive event was already planned by groups including the Denver Communists, HOES (Help on Every Street), the Denver Boulder Socialist Revolution, the Anon Resistance Movement, the Front Range Mutual Aid Network, and WITCH, (or Women's International Troublemaker Conspiracy from Hell).
Tiegen had also posted an Instagram video the day of the event, saying: “They call us the aggressors, the oppressors, We need to do more friggin Patriotic Musters and shoving it in their face. ….They don’t want nothing but oppression, Communism, Socialism, and all that does is take away your individuality…We can’t be afraid. We can’t be scared. We got to stand up. We gotta fight back. We gotta push back.”
Ahead of the rallies, the Denver Police Department said it would respect “the right to peacefully assemble” but urged those participating to “do so in a lawful manner.”