Kyle Rittenhouse in an Aug. 26, 2020, photo released by the Antioch Police Department (Antioch Police Department via AP)
If you’re going to donate money to accused killers and cops who’ve shot people, maybe don’t use your work email—especially if you work for the government, and especially if you’re a cop.
A trove of data released from the “#1 free Christian fundraising site,” GiveSendGo, showed several donations from cops and other public employees to the teenaged shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, as well as Rusten Sheskey, the Wisconsin cop who shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake, leading to the protests where Rittenhouse killed two people and injured another in Kenosha last August, the Guardian reported Friday.
Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, was charged with multiple felonies, including reckless homicide and intentional homicide. But his case became a cause célèbre for the right, including then-President Donald Trump, and his legal defense raised just under $586,000 on GiveSendGo, far exceeding the $500,000 goal. Multiple attempts to raise money for Rittenhouse on GoFundMe, the most widely-used crowdfunding site, were deleted.
One anonymous $25 donation to Rittenhouse, made on Sept. 3 of last year, was associated with the official email address of Norfolk, Virginia, police Sgt. William Kelly, according to the Guardian.
“God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong,” the anonymous comment on the donation said, according to the Guardian. “Every rank-and-file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
At the time, Kelly—a nearly 19-year veteran of the Norfolk PD, according to his LinkedIn page—was the officer in charge of the department’s K9 unit. Last month, according to his LinkedIn, he became the executive officer of internal affairs for NPD. Neither Kelly nor Norfolk PD immediately responded to a VICE News request for comment.
Following the publication of The Guardian’s story, Norfolk police chief Larry D. Boone released a statement saying he was “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.” Kelly has also been reassigned pending the investigation, Norfolk PD said.
Other donations to Rittenhouse came from a paramedic in Utah; a city employee in Huntsville, Alabama; and an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a nuclear research facility in California. The engineer, Michael Crosley, donated $100. The laboratory did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News, but told the Guardian it was an “honest mistake” and that Crosley had “never intended to use his Lab email on this matter.”
Livermore director of public affairs Lynda Seaver told VICE News in an email that Crosley “was acting on his own and does not speak for the Laboratory. It was not his intent to use his Lab email.”
As for Sheskey, 32 donations totaling thousands of dollars were made under private email addresses associated with Kenosha cops using their badge numbers, according to the Guardian. Sheskey received several more donations from cops at other Wisconsin police departments, including two at the Green Bay Police Department. An official from GBPD told the Guardian that the department is “looking into the matter.”
Sheskey not only wasn’t charged but also didn’t lose his job. Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis announced Tuesday that Sheskey had returned to duty on March 31 and wouldn’t be disciplined.
“Although this incident has been reviewed at multiple levels, I know that some will not be pleased with the outcome,” Miskinis wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “However, given the facts, the only lawful and appropriate decision was made.”