Virginia police lieutenant fired for donating to Rittenhouse defense fund wants job back

NORFOLK, Va. (WKBT) — A former Virginia police officer who was fired for donating to a defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse wants his job back in the wake of Rittenhouse’s acquittal on homicide charges.

Norfolk officials fired Lt. William Kelly in April for violating policy after he used his work email to donate $25 to Rittenhouse’s defense fund, although he tried to do so anonymously to avoid exposing the police department.

The 18-year-old Rittenhouse was found not guilty of reckless homicide and other charges for shooting two men to death and wounding another during a Black Lives Matter protest of police brutality in Kenosha, Wis., last year after a Kenosha officer shot a black man several times, leaving him partially paralyzed.

Kelly now is pressing to be reinstated, according to news reports.

Kelly was fired in April after a report in The Guardian suggested he had donated $25 to Rittenhouse’s defense through GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding website. A data breach of the website indicated that Kelly used his official email address to make the donation, a violation of department policy.

In a comment on the site, Kelly said: “God bless. Thank you for your courage. 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.”

Ironically, a GiveSendGo campaign for Kelly has reportedly has collected more than $113,000.

Kelly told the Daily Mail that he wanted to contribute to Rittenhouse’s defense but that he gave the money anonymously because he did not want to associate the police department with the donation.

“I was interested in giving him the chance to defend himself in front of a jury,” Kelly said. “I know that lawyers are expensive, and it’s hard sometimes to get the message out there. I wanted to make sure that he had the means necessary to make his claim in court.”

The Guardian report said Kelly filed a grievance after the Norfolk police chief had been pictured in uniform holding a sign at a Black Lives Matter protest last year.

“The hypocrisy is dumbfounding,” Kelly said.

The data breach revealed that many other police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for accused vigilantes, far-right activists and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans.

In the run-up to Rittenhouse’s trial, many online vendors were selling T-shirts with messages such as “Free Kyle,” “Free as F–k” and other slogans. Some vendors pulled the items because of criticism in courts, although a variety of the shirts still are available on eBay and other sites, including a shirt that portrays Rittenhouse as “The Punisher,” a Marvel cartoon persona also made into a movie.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and other news outlets.

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