Bill Kelly: Cop fired for donating $25 to Kyle Rittenhouse defense fund wants job back
The ousted officer explained why he thought the 18-year-old deserved justice and why he still stands by his decision
A police officer who was fired for anonymously donating $25 to a Kyle Rittenhouse defense fund after being exposed by hackers is now demanding his job back from the "hypocrite" police chief who decided to relieve him of his sworn duties.
Norfolk Police Lieutenant William 'Bill' Kelly spoke to the Daily Mail after the Rittenhouse verdict came in on Friday, November 19. The ousted officer explained why he thought the 18-year-old deserved justice and why he still stands by his decision. Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, was found not guilty on all counts after a two-week trial and is now a free man. But several months before the trial had even started, 42-year-old Kelly was fired for donating anonymously to the teenager's legal defense fund.
The 19-year veteran and father of three made a $25 donation to a Give Send Go online campaign for Rittenhouse's legal team after scouring through hours of social media footage from the August 2020 unrest in Kenosha. "God Bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong," Kelly wrote alongside the donation. "Every rank-and-file police officer supports you," he added. Kelly said he didn't think much of it until he was outed in an article by The Guardian, which posted names of several law enforcement officers who contributed to the fund. Their details were hacked by a group and shared with the media, prompting Kelly to be fired by the police chief and city manager in Norfolk, who called his actions "egregious."
Speaking to the Daily Mail, the embattled former officer explained why he thought Rittenhouse was innocent right from the get-go. "Everything I'm saying is just my personal opinion," he told the newspaper. "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," he said.
Kelly, who described himself as a "news junkie," noted how a GoFundMe account for Rittenhouse had been canceled and another campaign had been set up on the Christian fundraising site Give Send Go. He subsequently donated to the page, ensuring he left out personal details as he didn't want to associate himself with the police department. As fate would have it, a hacker group called 'Distributed Denial of Secrets' obtained his name and email address from the fund and provided it to The Guardian, which brazenly published a story including his name. The Norfolk Police Department immediately began receiving widespread calls to fire Kelly from across the globe. "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," he said.
The city decided that Kelly's comments somehow "eroded" the public's trust in law enforcement and decided to fire him in April. While the former officer has since filed a grievance, the process is still underway and he's had to survive on his savings in the meantime. According to Kelly, the only reason he was fired was that he supported the teenager. "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 insisted.
JUST IN: @NorfolkPD Lt. William Kelly has been "relieved of duty" - he's the officer accused of donating to Kyle Rittenhouse's defense fund. According to a @guardian news report, the donation also came with a comment: “Thank you for your courage... You’ve done nothing wrong.” pic.twitter.com/8QXjfJF5yT— Dana Smith (@13DanaSmith) April 20, 2021
He pointed out in his grievance how police chief Larry Boone attended a BLM demonstration in May last year in full uniform, while on duty. Boone was seen in photos holding a sign that read 'Black Lives Matter' alongside names of people who had been shot by cops. "The hypocrisy is dumbfounding," Kelly commented. "For the leader of our organization to be able to advocate support for a movement that is at the very least divisive in America today, in uniform while on duty... he was holding carried the name of a person who had recently been shot by a Norfolk police officer. The sign demanded justice for that person, but that shooting was still under investigation to determine whether or not that officer should be charged criminally," he continued. "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?"
Kelly and his wife have since been surviving on her salary as a school teacher and his savings. The couple has three kids, with the oldest being 18. The officer now hopes he will be reinstated soon and granted back pay. He told the Daily Mail how he was desperate to return to work and was just ten months away from vesting for his pension when he was fired. Should he not be reinstated, he will lose the pension he toiled almost two decades for. "I love being a cop, it's a part of me and who I am. It was a huge hit for me to lose my job. If I got the chance again, I'd jump on it," he concluded.
The City of Norfolk is yet to comment on whether it intends to give Kelly his job back. In the meantime, the former cop is hoping for a hearing date at the end of January, albeit he'd rather resolve the issue privately before then.