Denver Government

Judge Rules Pinkerton Can Keep Denver Security License

Lee Keltner was fatally shot at the protest.
Lee Keltner was fatally shot at the protest. Michael Emery Hecker
On June 7, Denver District Court Judge David H. Goldberg ruled that the legendary Pinkerton agency can keep its security license in Denver, overruling a decision by the City of Denver that had revoked the company's license.

The decision comes over eighteen months after Matthew Dolloff, hired by a subcontractor of Pinkerton to provide security for a 9News team covering duelings protests in Civic Center Park in October 2020, shot and killed Lee Kelter, a man who slapped Dolloff and sprayed Mace at him. In March 2022, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann dismissed a second-degree murder charge against Dolloff after her office concluded that the security guard, who was unlicensed at the time of the shooting, was acting in self-defense.

In the aftermath of the incident, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses issued an order to show cause as to why Pinkerton should not have its security license suspended or revoked. Pinkerton and the Denver City Attorney's Office initially agreed on a settlement. However, Ashley Kilroy, executive director of Excise and Licenses at the time, rejected the settlement agreement, leading to a hearing in February 2021, after which the hearing officer determined that Pinkerton's license should be suspended for six months for failure to comply with local laws, and that the company was also responsible for "acts and omissions" of the subcontractor it had worked with that hired Dolloff. By that point, the subcontractor, Jason Isborn, had already agreed to surrender his security license to Excise and Licenses.

In June 2021, Kilroy accepted the findings of the hearing officer but ruled that Pinkerton should lose its security license in Denver indefinitely.

Pinkerton appealed that ruling in Denver District Court, and Judge Goldberg sided with Pinkerton, albeit for very narrow reasons.

Pinkerton had argued that a section of a Denver ordinance that talks about license suspension or revocation does not apply to the company because the law states that “any act or omission committed by any employee, agent, or independent contractor that occurs in the course of his or her employment, agency, or contract with the licensee shall be imputed to the licensee or permittee for purposes of imposing any suspension, revocation or other sanction on the licensee or permittee. Had the section simply stated "his," it would have implied that the category included corporations, Judge Goldberg determined. But since the law instead uses "his or her," it applies only to natural persons and was not applicable to Pinkerton, he ruled.

The judge didn't address any of the other arguments before him, writing simply: "The Court finds and concludes that the Director abused her discretion and Pinkerton’s revocation is set aside and reversed."

Here's the full ruling:
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.