Public Officials Across America Donated to Kyle Rittenhouse Fund, Data Breach Shows

A number of police officers and public officials donated money to the fundraising campaign for Kenosha murder suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, a data breach has revealed.

The breach at the Christian fundraising website GiveSendGo, shared with The Guardian by an online transparency group, also showed that police officers had given to campaigns for Officer Rusten Sheskey, whose shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked Black Lives Matter protests in the city last August. Rittenhouse is charged with two counts of murder over shootings at the Kenosha protests.

According to the Guardian report on the data breach, a number of law enforcement officials used their work emails to make donations.

One donation to the Rittenhouse fund, made on September 3, 2020, appears to be connected to Sgt William Kelly, an executive officer of internal affairs for the Norfolk Police Department in Virginia.

The $25 donation, which was made anonymously but later traced to Kelly, was accompanied by the comment: "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."

Other public officials reported to have donated to Rittenhouse's legal fund include a paramedic in Utah and a nuclear weapons engineer.

Rittenhouse was 17 years old when he traveled from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, where people were protesting the police shooting of Blake.

He is charged with homicide in the deaths of Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, during the demonstrations on August 25. He is also charged with the attempted homicide of Gaige Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse denies the charges and claims he was acting in self-defense after coming under attack from left-wing protesters while he was attempting to protect the city.

He was released from custody in November after posting $2m bail following the successful fundraising campaign by his attorneys.

Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake on August 23, was not charged over the incident, which left Blake paralyzed from the waist down. The officer has recently returned to duty.

The Guardian reported that email addresses linked to two lieutenants in Green Bay, Wisconsin, made $20 donations to the "Support Rusten Sheskey" fundraising page. The newspaper named the pair as Chad Ramos and Keith Gehring.

Officer Pat Gainer of the Pleasant Prairie police department in Wisconsin is also said to have donated.

Around 32 more donations, totaling more than $5,000, were made to the Sheskey GiveSendGo page from private email addresses associated with Kenosha officers, but under badge numbers rather than names.

In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Kenosha Police said: "I see nothing in [the report] that substantiates any Kenosha Police Officer used a governmental email account to make donations to Officer Sheskey."

Newsweek has also contacted Norfolk, Green Bay and Pleasant Prairie police for comment.

In a statement to The Guardian, Green Bay police chief Andrew Smith said his department was "looking into the matter," adding that his department "does not take a position on other agencies' use of force."

GiveSendGo has been contacted for comment on the data breach.

The site, founded in 2015 by siblings Heather Wilson and Jacob Wells, gained national attention for hosting the Rittenhouse fundraiser—and resisting calls from other Christian organizations to remove it. To date, the page has received more than $585,000 in donations.

Since then, a number of far-right figures and organizations who have been banned from platforms such as GoFundMe have turned to GiveSendGo. These include several members of the Proud Boys charged in connection with the Capitol riots on January 6.

In a previous statement to Newsweek, Wells said GiveSendGo did "not have a position" on the Proud Boys or other extremists using the site.

"Many people disagree with GiveSendGo allowing campaigns for people or causes that they personally disagree with, much like people disagreed with the way Jesus showed love to the 'sinners of society.'

"We do not personally endorse or support campaigns on our site."

Kyle Rittenhouse
A man wears a T-shirt calling for freedom for Kyle Rittenhouse at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on August 28, 2020. Joseph Prezioso / AFP/Getty Images