Norfolk, VA – A veteran Norfolk Police Department lieutenant has been fired after he was named by hackers as being a list of people who anonymously donated to a legal defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse.
A data breach in the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo revealed that numerous active-duty police officers and public officials donated money to help Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with the murder of two rioters during the Jacob Blake riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, The Guardian reported.
Supporters raised $586,940 in the fall of 2020 to help cover Rittenhouse’s bail and pay his attorneys’ fees for what they say is as a legal self-defense shooting.
The data was released to The Guardian by the transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDOS) and showed personally-identifiable data of some of the donors who chose to conceal their identities using the site’s “anonymous” feature.
The “anonymous” donors’ information was saved in GiveSendGo’s system and when hackers breached the site’s security measures, they were able to capture that data, including donations that tracked back to official email addresses, The Guardian reported.
Norfolk Police Lieutenant William Kelly, the executive officer of the police department’s Internal Affairs unit, contributed $25 to the fund anonymously, according to the report.
“God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong,” Lt. Kelly wrote when he made the contribution, The Guardian reported.
“Every rank and file police officer supports you,” the lieutenant continued the message. “Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
Norfolk Police Chief Larry D. Boone initially called for an administrative investigation “to ensure department policies and procedures were not violated,” WTKR reported.
Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander released a statement that condemned the lieutenant’s actions.
“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,” the statement read. “We look forward to a full report from the administration as they investigate this matter.”
On Tuesday, Chief Boone recommended to Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer that Lt. Kelly be terminated, WAVY reported.
“I have reviewed the results of the internal investigation involving Lt. William Kelly,” Filer said in a statement on April 20. “Chief Larry Boone and I have concluded Lt. Kelly’s actions are in violation of City and departmental policies. His egregious comments erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve.”
Filer went on to say that the city had a standard of behavior for all employees and will hold staff accountable, WAVY reported.
Chief Boone said in a statement that he wanted residents of Norfolk to know that the police department would uphold its values.
“A police department cannot do its job when the public loses trust with those whose duty is to serve and protect them,” the chief wrote. “We do not want perceptions of any individual officer to undermine the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community.”
He asked the community to continue supporting its police officers.
Lt. Kelly joined the Norfolk police force in 2002 and was previously head of the law enforcement agency’s K9 unit.
Utah paramedic’s name also appeared on the list of anonymous donors outed by DDOS, The Guardian reported.
The paramedic donated $10 to the Rittenhouse fund on Aug. 30, 2020 using his official email address, according to the data collected in the breach.
The data breach also revealed a $100 donation associated with the official address an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the facility that maintains US’s nuclear weapons stockpile, according to The Guardian.
DDOS also unearthed the names of multiple Wisconsin police officers who contributed to the “Support Rusten Sheskey” fund to help the Kenosha police officer who shot Blake.
About 32 Kenosha police officers contributed more than a combined $5,000 to that fund under their badge numbers from private email addresses, The Guardian reported.
Officer Sheskey also got donations from city employees in Houston, Texas who were objecting to then-Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo’s decision to fire four officers in connection with an officer-involved shooting there.
Even Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena contributed $100 to Officer Sheskey’s fund using an official email address, The Guardian reported.
The Blake shooting was ultimately ruled to be justified.
Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith said his department was looking into allegations that members of his department had made contributions to the Kenosha police fundraisers and said he agency didn’t “take a position on other agencies’ use of force.”
The Guardian said other police departments and city official it contacted did not respond to its requests for comment.