By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
The City of Norfolk has fired a high-ranking police officer who donated $25 to the defense fund of Kyle Rittenhouse, the man who killed two Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors in Wisconsin. The Norfolk NAACP and other Civic and Political leaders have issued calls for a full investigation.
Ongoing surveillance of the money pouring into the Rittenhouse fund revealed that Lt. William K. Kelly III, the second in command of the Norfolk Police Department’s internal affairs unit was one of many to donate.
On Aug. 25, 2020, Rittenhouse shot and killed two BLM protestors in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin during a protest responding to the police shooting death of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Since then, thousands of dollars have been donated to pay Rittenhouse’s legal bills.
The donation, though signed anonymously, derived from the work email address of Lieutenant Kelly, according to The Guardian.
On August 23, Jacob S. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man was shot and seriously injured by police officer Rusten Sheskey in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sheskey shot at Blake’s back seven times when Blake opened the driver’s door to an SUV and leaned into it.
Two days later, Rittenhouse shot and killed two people who were protesting the killing. His case has come to a rallying cry of racist, right-wing groups.
Kelly’s apparent donation carried the comment: “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
It continued: “Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
In a press statement on Monday April 19 to the GUIDE, the President of the Norfolk Branch of the NAACP, Stacie Armstead, expressed the group’s concerns over the issue. Armstead wrote that the Norfolk NAACP “is deeply disturbed by the recent allegations made regarding” Lieutenant Kelly’s contribution to Kyle Rittenhouse’s campaign.
She noted, “Our branch prides itself as an organization with a strong history that values public trust. We have taken a high interest in forging relationships with the NPD to improve community outreach efforts and building trust between citizens and law enforcement.”
Armstead called the alleged comments by Lt. Kelly “unsettling.”
After Kelly’s firing on Tuesday, April 20, Amstead issued a new release.
“The Norfolk Branch NAACP believes Norfolk Police Department (NPD) executed exactly what any socially responsible organization should do when faced with a member that did not align with their values. We recognize, however, that Lt. Kelly’s biased actions and beliefs are unacceptable and not unique. As a community, we find ourselves at the intersection of accountability and resolution. However, the journey to justice has yet to be completed.”
“Moving forward, we fully expect that NPD will educate and train its officers to be culturally responsive and aware of how statements like Lt. Kelly’s sow distrust in the communities they serve. Under our new leadership, the Norfolk Branch NAACP looks forward to joining with the NPD’s leadership to discuss how this can be accomplished.
“This sounds like the support of Vigilantism,” said Rev. Keith I. Jones before the city’s action. Jones is the President of the Metro Ministers Conference of Virginia (MMCV), which recently changed its name from the Tidewater Baptist Minster Conference.”
“I consider this to be terrorism and outside the law,” said Jones, Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church. “I am disappointed. You would think a man sworn to protect and serve people of all color would not support this kind of violence.”
Rev. Jones and other Black leaders have applauded Chief Boone, who is African American, and his predecessor Michael Goldsmith for their efforts to “change the culture of the NPD and reduce the number of tensions between it and the Black community.”
He noted that despite the “reformist” intentions of police
chiefs “lower-ranking officials may seek to oppose and usurp such measures.”
In a statement to local residents, Chief Larry Boone said he wants people to know that the department will represent and uphold organizational values.
“We do not want perceptions of any individual officer to undermine the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community.”
Chief Boone ended his statement asking community members to continue supporting the officers of the department.
Kelly is able to appeal the decision.