An officer in southeastern Virginia has been fired after reports surfaced that he donated to and expressed support for Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with killing two people in protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake last summer.
Norfolk Police Lt. William Kelly was “relieved of duty” Tuesday after a data breach showed his email address was linked to an initially anonymous $25 donation to Rittenhouse’s legal defense fund, according to The Guardian.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, late on Aug. 25 during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the police shooting two days earlier of Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed.
“God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong,” Kelly commented on the fundraiser, which was on a Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo, according to the Guardian.
“Every rank and file police officer supports you,” the comment continued.
“Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
According to the Guardian, Rittenhouse raised $586,940 from that fundraiser between August and January.
Government officials said that his actions were in violation of government policy.
“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,” said City Manager Chip Filer in a statement.
Kelly was initially put on administrative duty Friday, the city said. He can appeal the firing. It was not immediately clear if Kelly had an attorney representing him who could comment on his behalf.
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“The alleged statement and action by a member of Norfolk’s Police Department is alarming and by all means not consistent with the values of our city or the standards set for our employees,” Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander said in a statement Friday.
Clay Messick, president of the local police union, told local paper The Virginian-Pilot that the decision to fire Kelly, not a union member, was “disappointing.”
“We were hoping for a full, transparent investigation,” he told the newspaper. “But after 72 hours, I do not believe that is what we got.”′
Rittenhouse’s trial was set for Nov. 1 of this year last month. He has been free on bail since Nov. 20, after his former civil lawyer posted $2 million donated by supporters who consider him a patriot or poster boy for the Second Amendment.
According to the Guardian, the GiveSendGo website has been used to raise money by far-right groups like the Proud Boys that have been banned from better known sites like GoFundMe.
Contributing: Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Associated Press