The second in command of the Norfolk Police Department’s internal affairs unit donated to the white man accused of shooting and killing protesters last year in Kenosha, Wis., and whose case has become a rallying cry for right-wing activists.
An anonymous donor in September gave $25 to the legal defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, but the donation came from the official email address of Lt. William K. Kelly III, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Kelly became an executive officer in Norfolk police’s internal affairs unit two months ago, according to his LinkedIn page. He began working for the department in 2002, according to city employment records.
Kelly’s apparent donation carried the comment: “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
It continued: “Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
After the donation story broke, Police Chief Larry Boone said Kelly had been reassigned, although the chief did not identify him by name. Boone also said he had launched “an administrative investigation” into the allegations against Kelly. It’s unclear whether that probe will be conducted by the internal affairs investigators whom Kelly oversaw.
Kelly did not respond to a message sent to his work email.
A veteran Norfolk officer told The Virginian-Pilot that the allegations against Kelly were “absolutely crazy” and threatened to further widen racial divisions within the department. The officer, whom the newspaper is not naming because department policy tightly restricts when police can talk to the media, called Kelly a nice, unassuming guy — a “golden boy.”
“I never would have figured,” he said.
The officer said Kelly’s assertion that “every rank and file officer supports you” is simply wrong and that many of his colleagues are angry “because he doesn’t speak for us, and those views are certainly not mine. We are waiting to see how this is handled by the administration.”
In a statement, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander called the allegations against Kelly “alarming and by all means not consistent with the values of our city.” Alexander said he looks forward to reviewing the police department’s report on the accusations.
Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, called Kelly’s alleged conduct “utterly disgusting” in an emailed statement. Jones, who is running for attorney general, said that if the allegations are true, Kelly needs to resign. If he doesn’t, he should be fired, he said.
The Guardian obtained the information because of a data breach of GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding website. The leak revealed that police officers and other public officials around the country donated money to fundraisers for alleged vigilantes, far-right activists and fellow officers accused of shooting Black people. The breach was shared with journalists by the transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets.
The beneficiaries of donations from public officials include Rittenhouse, who is accused of murdering two protesters in Kenosha in August. Rittenhouse traveled with weapons from neighboring Illinois to, by his own account, offer armed protection to businesses during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse became a cause célèbre across conservative media and was supported by former President Donald Trump. He held a fundraiser on GiveSendGo that was billed as a contribution to his legal defense. According to data from the site, he raised $586,940 from Aug. 27 to Jan. 7, according to The Guardian article.
Conservative groups and supporters have sought to paint Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the Aug. 25 shootings, as a staunch supporter of the Blue Lives Matter movement and a patriot.