Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Donation to Rittenhous­e defense came from police officer’s email

- BY JONATHAN EDWARDS

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.

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