A security guard protecting TV journalists has been held in a murder investigation after a protester was shot dead during clashes between left-wing and right-wing rallies in the US city of Denver.
Right-wing demonstrators had gathered at the city’s civic centre for a “Patriot Rally” but were met by left-wing activists affiliating themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement who said they wanted to “drown out their hate”.
The shooting victim was a supporter of the Patriot Rally who sprayed mace at a private security guard during an altercation.
The suspect in the shooting was named by Denver police as Matthew Dolloff (30). He is being held in an investigation of first-degree murder.
According to photographs of the incident, the security guard was slapped and had mace fired at him. The guard, who was at the event to protect reporters from local TV station KUSA, then opened fire with a weapon.
KUSA confirmed it had hired the security guard as a precaution. “It has been the practice for a number of months to hire private security to accompany staff at protests.”
Police said the dead man and the security guard were both white. The victim has not been named.
“There was a large (police) presence because we had two groups with opposing views, and we know that can always get very tense,” said Joe Montoya, division chief of investigations for the Denver Police Department, at a news conference, adding that authorities tried their best to keep the groups separate. “And there’s always potential for violence.”
Protesters were just starting to disperse from a park, police said, when officers working at the events reported shots fired. The violence – under investigation as a homicide – followed a “verbal altercation,” according to Mr Montoya.
The man who was shot was taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead, police said. Officials said a mace canister and two firearms were recovered at the scene.
The shooting took place between the Denver Art Museum and a public library.
Tensions were high in Denver heading into Saturday’s events. An organiser of the Denver Patriot Rally, John Tiegen, told local news station KNUS earlier in the week that he was “not calling for violence” but added that if he was attacked, he would respond “10 times fold”.
Last week, 13 members of a militia group were arrested after allegedly plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, and overthrow the state government.
There has been a surge in gun sales in recent months.
The FBI recorded that it had carried out 3.9 million background checks on potential gun owners in June, the highest number since records began in 1998. In Virginia, for example, there have been 587,107 background checks in just nine months, shattering the record for annual gun sales set in 2016.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump claimed yesterday he was “immune” from coronavirus as he prepared for a week of barnstorming around the country as the presidential election enters its final lap.
Just six days after being released from the Walter Reed Medical Centre, a bullish US president contrasted his health with that of Joe Biden.
“It looks like I’m immune for, I don’t know, maybe a long time, maybe a short time. It could be a lifetime. Nobody really knows,” he told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures.
He is due to hold a rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida today, before moving on to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, tomorrow and Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday.
Critics of the Trump campaign have accused the president of being reckless in holding events where supporters have not observed social distancing and frequently not worn masks.
The latest polls released over the weekend give the president little cause for optimism.
An ABC-Washington Post survey gives the Biden-Harris ticket a 12-point lead over Mr Trump and Mike Pence, with the president still paying the price for voters’ unhappiness at his handling of the pandemic. (© Washington Post)