What does Colorado legislation say concerning the suspect's proper to self-defense in opposition to the Denver protest? – The Denver Submit
Whether the security officer who shot and killed a protester in Denver over the weekend can successfully argue in court that he defended himself depends on the particular nuances of the case, Colorado legal experts said Monday.
Doug Richards, who works with the family of Matthew Robert Dolloff, 30, called the shooting a tragic Monday and said Dolloff didn't shoot until he was attacked. Dolloff shot and killed 49-year-old Lee Keltner towards the end of two opposing demonstrations in the city center, one of which was referred to as the "Patriot Rally" and the other as "BLM-Antifa Soup Drive".
"This was a very clear case where Matt was defending himself," said Richards.
Dolloff has not yet been charged by prosecutors but is being held by police on suspicion of first degree murder.
Under Colorado law, a person may only use lethal force for self-defense if that person reasonably believes that less force is not enough and the person reasonably believes that they or another person is in imminent danger, killed, or seriously injured to become.
There is no obligation to withdraw under state law, but self-defense measures must generally be proportionate to the attack, the lawyers said.
"The way I explained it to the juries is that there are two basic components to self-defense," said Stan Garnett, former district attorney in Boulder County. “The first is the perception of the person involved – what did they reasonably believe what happened? And the second provision is proportionality. Did you react appropriately and proportionately? "
"If someone comes up to you and hits you, you can't take out a gun and shoot them," said attorney Jacob Kartchner. "The level of self-defense must be necessary for the threat against you."
Keltner's family told the Denver Post they went downtown on Sunday to help law enforcement. Towards the end of the rallies, he got into a confrontation with Dolloff – it's not clear how it started, but photos taken by a Post photographer show that Keltner appears to have punched Dolloff in the face, then the two men kicked back each other. Keltner took out a can of pepper spray and fired it at Dolloff, whom Keltner shot from a distance, according to the photos.
Whether Dolloff's decision to fire was sensible depends on a myriad of factors, attorneys said, such as his state of mind, what words were exchanged, and whether he knew Keltner was armed with pepper spray or believed he had a gun.
Dolloff was working as a commissioned security officer for 9News when he killed Keltner, despite city officials saying he was not licensed for such work in Denver.
Also, under state law, Dolloff cannot claim self-defense if he started the confrontation unless he tried to end it and let Keltner know, and Keltner attacked again anyway, lawyers said.
All of these factors will be part of deciding whether Dolloff held reasonable beliefs and took reasonable action, said Ken Eichner, defense attorney and former prosecutor.
"As soon as you get into the courtroom, you really get into the weeds," he said. “One person (who sprays another person with pepper spray) can create a situation where reacting with a weapon can be considered a reasonable force … but it could also be the other way around. Other people may find it absurd to use a gun for pepper spray. It will be a hotly debated fact. "