A Virginia police officer was fired after donating to Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse's legal defense fund

kyle rittenhouse
Kyle Rittenhouse. Nam Y. Huh/Pool via Reuters
  • Officer William Kelly of Norfolk, Virginia, donated to Rittenhouse, The Guardian reported last week.

  • Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting two people at an anti-racism protest last August.

  • Norfolk officials announced Kelly's firing on Tuesday, saying his donation eroded public trust.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A Norfolk, Virginia, police officer has been fired for donating to the legal defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of fatally shooting two anti-racism protesters last year.

Rittenhouse is accused of killing two protesters and injuring a third after he opened fire at a demonstration against the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.

Lt. William Kelly has been relieved of duty, a Tuesday press release from the city of Norfolk said. Insider was unable to reach Kelly for comment Wednesday morning.

News of Kelly's firing comes four days after The Guardian published a list of public employees who donated to various funds on a Christian crowdfunding website called GiveSendGo, which was the target of a data breach. Kelly was among four public employees who donated to Rittenhouse's legal defense on the website, The Guardian reported.

The report said that Kelly donated $25 anonymously to the legal defense, but he was identified because he used his official email address.

He left a comment on the fund along with his donation: "God bless. Thank you for your coverage. Keep your head up. You've done nothing wrong. Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don't be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership," The Guardian reported.

kyle rittenhouse supporter

Before his firing, Kelly was the executive officer of internal affairs in the Norfolk Police Department, The Guardian reported. He was initially placed on administrative leave when the report was published last week, the city's press release said.

'Egregious comments' erode trust, city says

Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said on Tuesday that after an investigation, he and Police Chief Larry Boone "concluded that Lt. Kelly's actions are in violation of City and departmental policies."

"His egregious comments erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve. The City of Norfolk has a standard of behavior for all employees, and we will hold staff accountable," Filer said.

"A police department cannot do its job when the public loses trust with those whose duty is to serve and protect them. We do not want perceptions of any individual officer to undermine the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community," Boone added.

The press release said Kelly will have the opportunity to appeal his firing. Insider has asked the city and police department whether Kelly had announced intentions to appeal, but they did not immediately respond on Wednesday morning.

3 other public employees donated to Rittenhouse

The three other public servants who donated to Rittenhouse's legal defense were Craig Shepherd, a paramedic with the West Valley City Fire Department in Utah; Keith Silvers, an employee of Huntsville, Alabama; and Michael Crosley, an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal research facility.

The West Valley City Fire Department told ABC 4 in a statement that it's "conducting an investigation into" Shepherd's donation, but said "such a donation would be representative of personal actions and not those of West Valley City."

The fire department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for further comment on Wednesday.

The director of communications for the city of Huntsville also did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on Keith Silvers' donation.

Lynda Seaver, the director of public affairs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told The Guardian that Michael Crosley had made "an honest mistake" and had "never intended to use his Lab email on this matter." Insider has contacted Seaver for further comment.

Some also donated to the officer who shot Jacob Blake

The Guardian also published the names of police officers who donated to a fund in support of Rusten Sheskey, the Kenosha police officer whose shooting of Blake last year prompted the protests that Rittenhouse attended.

The donors included two Green Bay, Wisconsin, police officers - Chad Ramos and Keith A. Gehring - and Pat Gainer, a police officer in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith told The Guardian that the department is "looking into the matter" of Ramos' and Gehring's donations. Insider was unable to contact the department for further comment on Wednesday morning.

The Pleasant Prairie Police Department has not responded to Insider's request for comment.

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