‘He was a Western guy, but not an extremist’: Man who knew rally shooting victim speaks out

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DENVER (KDVR) — About 20 years ago Steve Weil was introduced to Lee Keltner. Today, Keltner is being identified as the man who was shot and killed by a 9NEWS security guard at a rally in Denver over the weekend.

“I was shocked,” said Weil, describing the moment he got the phone call from a friend informing him of Keltner’s death. “It’s a sad thing when someone you know is gunned down in downtown Denver.”

Weil is the president of Rockmount Ranch Manufacturing Company. The flagship store has been open in the heart of historic downtown Denver for over several decades. Weil and Keltner got to know each other after Keltner called Weil to purchase Rockmount hats, so Keltner could customize them for his own customers in his store in Manitou Springs.

“He was an artist,” said Weil. “He knew hats like other people knew cooking dinner. There aren’t too many people that knew hats like he did.”

Other friends and family members are remembering Keltner as a husband, father and grandfather who loved the Old West; he even participated in Buffalo Bill-related shows in Golden.

“He’s a Western guy, he followed the cowboy code,” Weil said Monday. “He was a man of integrity and was an honest person. I never talked politics with him, that never came up.”

FOX31 asked Weil if he knew about Keltner’s involvements in rallies across Denver this summer but he was not aware. Weil believes the spray Keltner used on the 9NEWS security guard could have been bear spray.

“I don’t know if he was looking for trouble but he certainly found it,” said Weil.

Weil stopped doing business with Keltner in 2008 when Keltner closed his store in Manitou Springs but would catch up with Keltner during annual trade shows, which Keltner attended frequently to sell his hats.

“I think he was an independent guy and he lived the western lifestyle,” said Weil. “I don’t know what conclusion to draw there but I never had the impression he was an extremist.”

Another friend who knew Keltner through the biker community called the incident a “senseless killing” and says nothing justifies the type of confrontation that led to Keltner’s death.

Colorado court records show Keltner’s criminal history dates back several decades. His most recent charge came in 2016 for Disorderly Conduct/Fighting in Public. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to violating a protection order.

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