Less than a week after a Norfolk police lieutenant was fired for publicly supporting a white Illinois man accused of shooting and killing Black Lives Matter protestors, more than 1,100 people have donated to a fundraiser for the ex-officer.
As of Monday afternoon, a post on Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo in support of ex-Lt. Willam K. Kelly III had amassed north of $43,000.
Kelly was fired April 20, four days after it was revealed that he’d made an anonymous $25 donation to the legal defense of Kyle Rittenhouse via the same crowdfunding site.
The fundraiser for Kelly was created by the site’s co-founders, siblings Jacob Wells and Heather Wilson.
“Regardless of how you feel regarding Kyle Rittenhouse, the fact is that Mr. Kelly’s individual rights have been grossly violated. He made an anonymous donation of a mere twenty-five dollars with his own money,” Wilson wrote in a statement.
Several comments from donors encouraged Kelly to sue the city and told him to “stand tall.”
“Fight this and then apply for the chiefs (sic) job when you win,” wrote one donor.
Kelly had been with Norfolk police since 2002, according to city employment records. He was promoted to be the second in command in the department’s internal affairs division in February.
Rittenhouse, an Illinois teen, has been charged with killing two men and injuring another during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the police killing of Jacob Blake, a Black man. The incident has become a political lightning rod during a time when racial prejudice in policing and police shootings have given rise to mass protests for racial justice and police reform. Many right wing figures rallied to Rittenhouse’s defense last year, raising more than half a million dollars for his legal defense on GiveSendGo.
The $25 donation to Rittenhouse’s fundraiser was sent anonymously, but data hacked from the site and shared with journalism organizations including The Virginian-Pilot earlier this month showed that the donation came from Kelly’s official city email address.
The donation included a message that said Rittenhouse had “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.”
Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer announced on April 20, four days after the donation was made public, that Kelly had been fired. Filer said the comments in Kelly’s donation “erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve.”
Kelly will have the ability to contest his firing through the city’s grievance procedure.