Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old who killed two people and injured a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer, has since raised at least $586,940 through the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo, revealed a recent data breach. However, according to their associated email addresses, several of Rittenhouse's anonymous donors were police officers and public officials. The breach's findings were shared by the transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets and published in The Guardian on Friday.
One anonymous $25 donation came with a disturbing note: "God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You've done nothing wrong. Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don't be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership." The email address associated with the donation indicates that it came from Sgt. William Kelly, the executive officer of internal affairs for the police department in Norfolk, Virginia.
In August, Rittenhouse killed two anti-racist protestors at a demonstration for Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by a Kenosha officer. Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who left Blake paralyzed, was another beneficiary noted in the data breach: The Guardian reported that around 32 Kenosha police officers donated a total of over $5,000 to a fundraiser in his name. Sheskey returned from administrative leave on March 31; the Kenosha Police Department said in an April 13 statement that he was found to have "acted within the law and was consistent with training."
According to The Guardian, three other notable exchanges reportedly came from a paramedic in Utah; a city employee in Huntsville, Alabama; and an engineer working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a government-owned national security facility. All three of the donations were linked to email addresses from public officials.
This is especially unnerving in the wake of several recent police shootings involving Black and brown men, who were shot and killed by police, and whose ages range from 13-20. Rittenhouse, meanwhile, has been treated by police not only with ease but now praise and support.
Rittenhouse's $2 million bond was paid by conservative fundraisers last fall; his trial will take place in November 2021. He's been lauded by many Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — as an American patriot and an ally of the Blue Lives Matter movement. According to footage from the night of the protest, an officer thanked Rittenhouse's armed group and gave him water moments before the shooting took place.
Jennifer Carlson, PhD, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona, interviewed 79 police chiefs in three states to investigate the disparity in the way they view armed civilians — and, to no one's surprise, it comes down to race. "Police chiefs articulated a position of gun populism based on a presumption of racial respectability," wrote Carlson, according to Vox. "'Good guys with guns' were marked off as responsible in ways that reflected white, middle-class respectability."
We see this hypocrisy time and time again. Take Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, who was killed by an officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota last week. John Cardillo, a right-wing commentator and former NYPD officer, posted a side-by-side photo of Wright with his 1-year-old child and Wright holding a gun. "The media's Daunte Wright as opposed to the real Daunte [sic] Right," Cardillo wrote. (Cardillo has shared photos of his own gun collection on numerous occasions; he's even holding one in his profile picture.)
Or take Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latinx child who had his hands up when he was fatally shot by a Chicago, Illinois officer. Fox News described Toledo as a "13-year-old man"; the same outlet called Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of his shooting, "a little boy." Ever since he was thanked by an officer for patrolling the streets with a gun, Rittenhouse has been given leeway, excuses, and even financial assistance from the same people meant to protect us — the same people who kill Black men (and boys) even if they just perceive an unfounded threat.
So, when a police officer donates money to Rittenhouse, telling him that "every rank and file police officer" supports him, one thing is clear: police are the problem.