A Virginia police officer who was fired for donating $25 to a fund to help Kyle Rittenhouse after being outed by hackers is now demanding his job be given back to him.
Seven months ago, Norfolk Police Lieutenant William “Bill” Kelly, a father of three who had been on the force for nineteen years, made a $25 donation to a Give Send Go online campaign for Rittenhouse’s legal team after seeing videos of the riots that took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer. Alongside his donation, Kelly wrote, “God Bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong. Every rank-and-file police officer supports you.”
Kelly didn’t think anything else about the donation until his name appeared in an article by The Guardian that gave the names of police officers who had donated to the fund. These details were found after the fund was hacked and reported on by the media, and Kelly was quickly fired from his job once the story came out.
After Rittenhouse was found not guilty this week, Kelly talked to Daily Mail about why he felt that the teenager was innocent from the very beginning.
“Everything I’m saying is just my personal opinion,” Kelly said. “I’ve been a homicide detective, a violent crimes investigator for years. I have a background. I watched the video of the shooting and 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. I was very surprised when he was charged soon after the shooting with these murders and the shooting of the third victim.”
“I was interested in giving him the chance to defend himself in front of a jury. I know that lawyers are expensive, and it’s hard sometimes to get the message out there. I wanted to make sure that he had the means necessary to make his claim in court,” he added. “It mattered. The comments I made, my belief that he has a strong claim for self-defense was a personal opinion. I didn’t want my city or police department to be associated with it, so I chose to donate anonymously. It was only after the hackers broke into it that they were able to connect those dots.”
Once Kelly’s name was released in The Guardian’s article, the Norfolk Police Department began receiving tons of hate.
“It wasn’t people local, it was people from all around the country who read an article and sent a nasty tweet,” he said. “In the absence of that outcry, there would not have been any kind of disciplinary action against me, I’m confident.”
“If people consumed as much information as I did about the case they may have come to a different conclusion. And honestly even if they did consume as much information as I did and they came to a different conclusion – that’s fine,” Kelly continued. “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. My opinion on the self-defense claim of Mr. Rittenhouse has no impact on my ability to do my job as a police officer.”
Kelly has since filed a grievance, but the process is a long one, and he has been forced to dip into his savings just to make ends meet. Kelly believes that the censorship of right-wing political views is “chilling” police officers all over the country.
“It made me feel disposable. Not only how it affected me, how it affected other officers. I was contacted by others who said they immediately deleted their social media accounts after I got fired out of fear that they would go through them and find something innocuous to use against them,” Kelly said. “I’ve been contacted by officers who say, ‘what if Trump runs in 2024 and I put a sign for him in my front yard, can media get a hold of that? If enough people complain, will I lose my job?’ ‘The effects of this kind of censorship are wide. It ripples through the entire department. It’s a chilling effect.”
Kelly is desperate to return to his job, as he will lose his pension that he worked nearly twenty years for if he doesn’t.
“I love being a cop, it’s a part of me and who I am,” he concluded. “It was a huge hit to me to lose my job. If I got the chance again, I’d jump on it.”