Norfolk, Virginia has fired a veteran police officer who donated $25 to Kyle RIttenhouse, the Illinois teenager awaiting trial for killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Lt. William K. Kelly III, the No. 2 officer in the Norfolk Police Department's internal affairs department, also used his official email address to praise Rittenhouse when giving him money through a Christian crowdfunding website, GiveSendGo, according to private records obtained by the group Distributed Denial of Secrets.
"God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You've done nothing wrong," Kelly wrote in his Sept. 3 donation note, The Guardian first reported, citing GiveSendGo's data breach. "Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don't be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership."
Kelly's "egregious" comments violated departmental policies and "erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve," Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said Tuesday afternoon. Clay Messick, president of the local police union, called the decision hasty, "disappointing," and lacking in transparency. Kelly is not a member of the union, Messick added, but "it is hard to call this fair." The city said Kelly can appeal his firing. Kelly did not respond to the Pilot's requests for comment.
An unidentified veteran Norfolk Police officer told the Pilot that Kelly was a "golden boy" and said what he is purported to have done is "absolutely crazy" and threatens to further exacerbate racial tensions inside the department. Kelly's claim that every officer supports Rittenhouse is also flat-out wrong, the officer said. "Many of us here are pissed off because he doesn't speak for us and those views are certainly not mine."
Rittenhouse raised $586,940 at GiveSendGo between Aug. 27 and Jan. 7, The Guardian reports, and among the other donors using their official accounts were a city official in Huntsville, Alabama; a paramedic in Utah; and an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. GiveSendGo has hosted crowdfunding campaigns for the Proud Boys and other groups banned from other platforms.