NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk Police Department is investigating the conduct of a high-ranking officer accused of donating to the defense fund of Kyle Rittenhouse, the man charged with the murder of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August.
The Guardian newspaper reported that Sgt. William Kelly, who served as the executive officer of NPD’s internal affairs division, made an anonymous $25 donation to Rittenhouse’s defense in September. However Kelly used an official email address linked to himself, the Guardian reported.
The revelation came after a data breach of a Christian crowdfunding GiveSendGo, which showed official email addresses belonging to many police officers and public officials. The information was shared with the Guardian by the transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets.
The alleged donation from Kelly was made on September 3 and included the comment, “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong” and “Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
According to Kelly’s LinkedIn page, he has been with the Norfolk Police Department for 18 years. He has been the executive officer of internal affairs for the last two months.
Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone responded to the allegations on Friday in a written statement, and said Kelly was reassigned to another division pending the results of an administrative investigation. He did not identify Kelly in the statement.
Here’s Boone’s full statement: “The Norfolk Police Department’s vision is to provide a safe environment for communities, businesses, and visitors to the City of Norfolk. We value Service, Honor, Integrity, Equality, and Leadership. In the face of civil unrest and social injustices, we maintain this standard and focus when serving the citizens of Norfolk through policing services and authentic community engagement. As the Chief of Police, I will continue to lead the women and men of this department to be accountable to our vision and values. I also empathetically recognize how recent events have heightened the fears of those we serve for themselves personally and for their love ones. The law enforcement profession is facing a difficult juncture as recent events have revealed the significance of courageous police leadership to hold officers accountable through due process who violate department policies. I am aware of the allegations leveraged against an officer of this department and have directed an administrative investigation to ensure department policies and procedures were not violated.”
Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander also issued a statement, calling the donation “alarming.”
“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. We look forward to a full report from the administration as they investigate this matter.”
Norfolk Delegate Jay Jones, who’s running for attorney general, released a statement that read in part: “We have to get to the bottom of this reported conduct, which is utterly disgusting. If these allegations are true, Officer Kelly must resign from the Norfolk Police Department immediately. Should he not resign, he must be terminated. Kelly’s actions have broken the public’s trust and emboldened the worst elements in our society.”
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, traveled across state lines from Illinois to protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, and claimed he was offering armed protection to businesses during the protests. Authorities say he shot and killed two protesters and injured a third. He walked away unharmed and was arrested by police without incident.
He’s since become a sort of hero for some on the right, with the Waukesha County GOP giving his mother a standing ovation at an event and conservative groups fundraising for him. Former President Trump has also expressed sympathy for Rittenhouse, suggesting he acted in self-defense.
NBC News reported in October 2020 that Trump officials were told to make comments sympathetic to Rittenhouse. That reporting was based on internal Department of Homeland Security talking points obtained by NBC.
The Guardian reported Rittenhouse raised $586,940 between August 27 of last year and January 7, 2021.
Rittenhouse remains out on bond after posting a $2 million bail.