Lieutenant William Kelly wants his job back after the Norfolk Police Department fired him following a $25 anonymous donation made to Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal defense fund in April 2021.
Rittenhouse’s two-week trial for the shooting of three men during the 2020 Kenosha riots concluded on Friday with a not guilty jury verdict.
Kelly, a 42-year-old, 19-year police veteran and father of three, was ten months away from his pension vesting when the Norfolk Police Department fired him. Kelly told the DailyMail:
Everything I’m saying is just my personal opinion. I’ve been a homicide detective, a violent crimes investigator for years. I have a background. I watched the video of the shooting. I’d seen the video of the journalists of Mr. Rittenhouse before the shooting and the protesters before the shooting and I thought it painted a pretty clear picture that Mr. Rittenhouse had a very strong claim for self-defense.
Kelly noticed that GoFundMe canceled the fundraiser for Rittenhouse’s defense but saw a new page set up for his legal defense on the Give Send Go platform.
Kelly sent his donation anonymously with a note that read, “God Bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong. Every rank-and-file police officer supports you.”
“I didn’t want my city or police department to be associated with it, so I chose to donate anonymously,” Kelly said.
Unfortunately, hackers obtained Kelly’s name and email address, then gave it to The Guardian, who ran a story on police officers and public officials who donated to Rittenhouse’s fund.
The backlash from this article led the Norfolk Police Department to fire him, citing an erosion of the public’s trust in the police.
“It wasn’t people local, it was people from all around the country who read an article and sent a nasty tweet. In the absence of that outcry, there would not have been any kind of disciplinary action against me, I’m confident,” said Kelly.
“This is America. You can agree with your neighbors and other people in your community and you can disagree with them. Just because someone has a different opinion than you, it doesn’t mean you should destroy their lives, take their job away,” he continued.
Furthermore, Kelly was punished for his donation despite Norfolk police chief Larry Boone keeping his job after attending a Black Lives Matter protest fully uniformed and on duty last May.
Kelly pointed out Norfolk Police Department’s inconsistency in handling these two situations.
“Yet I cannot, off-duty, on my own time make a donation and some comments that are well within the realm of public, acceptable discourse?” he questioned.
“If I had a different opinion and I donated to a fund for the victims and made comments about how Mr. Rittenhouse was a murderer, nobody would have cared or tried to get me fired,” Kelly said.
Although Rittenhouse was found not guilty by a jury of 12 of his peers, Kelly does not think public opinion will change:
I don’t think the discourse will change. People are dug in on their heels. They’ll point to some other boogie-man as an excuse as to why he was acquitted. They won’t be forced to look at the facts of the case. I don’t think they’ll change their mind.
Kelly would like to resolve the issue privately before his scheduled hearing date at the end of January.