U.S. police officers and public officials were among those who donated millions of dollars through a Christian crowdfunding website to 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of murder in shootings last summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a data breach has revealed.
The breach, first reported by The Guardian, was shared with journalists by Distributed Denial of Secrets, a transparency group, and revealed that officials and police officers who are currently serving donated money to Rittenhouse and the officer involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Some donors utilized the anonymity feature on GiveSendGo’s website, although identifying details, including email addresses, were preserved.
“God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong,” read the comment left with a donation from Sgt. William Kelly, who leads the internal affairs division at the Norfolk Police Department.
“Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.” Kelly said in making the $25 donation, which was linked to his official email address, on Sept. 3.
The Norfolk Police Department said in a statement that Kelly has been reassigned pending the results of an internal investigation intended “to ensure department policies and procedures were not violated.”
Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander said in a statement, “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.”
Amid outrage following the August shooting of Jacob Blake, Rittenhouse, then 17, traveled from Antioch, Illinois, to nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin, and fatally shot two Black Lives Matter protesters with an AR-15-style rifle as demonstrators clashed.
Footage of Blake being shot multiple times in the back by Kenosha officer Rusten Sheskey sparked weeks of consecutive demonstrations. The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.
Rittenhouse was arrested a day after the shooting at his Antioch home. He was released from jail in November when he posted $2 million bond after spending almost three months behind bars.
Multiple fundraisers were set up to raise money for Rittenhouse’s bond after he was arrested. At the time Rittenhouse was released, $500,000 had been raised on GiveSendGo, and the CEO of #FightBack, a right-wing nonprofit, announced on Twitter they had posted his bond.
Craig Shepherd, a paramedic who donated to Rittenhouse’s fundraiser, also used his official email address to do so. The $10 donation was made on Aug. 30.
A $100 donation was associated with the official address of Michael Crosley, an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, charged with maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
Lynda Seaver, director of public affairs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, wrote in an email that Crosley made “an honest mistake” and “never intended to use his Lab email on this matter.”
Other police officers donated to a “Support Rusten Sheskey” fundraiser. Sheskey was placed on administrative leave after shooting Blake but was later cleared of wrongdoing and returned to work in March.
Pat Gainer of the Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, police department also donated money and left the message, “Stay strong brother.”
Two lieutenants from the Green Bay Police Department also each donated $20 to Sheskey’s fund.
Green Bay, Wisconsin, Police Chief Andrew Smith wrote in a statement about the donations, “we are looking into the matter,” but added about Sheskey’s actions that his department “does not take a position on other agencies use of force. ”
An additional 32 donations totaling more that $,5000 were donated to Sheskey’s fund by Kenosha officers.