According to a data leak at a Christian crowdfunding website, serving police officers and elected officials have contributed money to fundraisers for convicted vigilante killers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of killing Black Americans.
The contributions were often linked to their official email addresses, raising concerns about the use of public funds to finance such campaigns.
The leak, which was disclosed to journalists by the transparency organization Distributed Denial of Secrets, revealed the personal information of several donors who had tried to hide their identities using GiveSendGo’s anonymity feature but whose identifying information was retained by the website.
Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of murdering two left-wing demonstrators in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August, is one of the recipients of public-sector donations. According to Rittenhouse, he flew from Illinois to provide armed protection to businesses during demonstrations over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse hosted a GiveSendGo fundraiser billed as a donation to his legal defense. According to the site’s numbers, he raised $586,940 between August of last year and January of this year.
Several of the donors had email addresses that could be traced back to the police and other government officials.
One $25 donation was made anonymously on September 3 of last year, but it was linked to the official email address of Sgt William Kelly, who is currently the executive officer of internal affairs for the Norfolk Police Department in Virginia.
The donation was also accompanied by a note that read, “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Every rank and file police officer supports you,” the comment added. “Don’t be discouraged by the actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
Craig Shepherd, a paramedic in Utah, was another Rittenhouse donor who used an official email address. On August 30, this donor made a $10 donation to Rittenhouse.
Donations were also sent to Rittenhouse with official email addresses for Keith Silvers, a city of Huntsville, Alabama employee, and another $100 was sent with the official address of Michael Crosley, an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is responsible for maintaining the US nuclear weapons arsenal.
Meanwhile, a fundraiser called “Support Rusten Sheskey” was held for the Kenosha police officer whose shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, sparked the protests that brought Rittenhouse to the area.
Two $20 contributions to Sheskey’s fund were linked to the emails of two Green Bay police lieutenants. One anonymous donation was linked to an address associated with Chad Ramos, a training lieutenant in the department, while another was linked to Keith A Gehring, who is identified as a school resources officer lieutenant.
Another donation to Sheskey was linked to officer Pat Gainer of the Pleasant Prairie. The donation was made under the screen name “PPPD Motor 179” and included the message “Stay strong, brother.”
Sheskey received another 32 contributions totaling over $5,000 from private email addresses affiliated with Kenosha officers but under badge numbers rather than names.
More anonymous contributions came from city workers in Houston, Texas, who were protesting the actions of then-police chief Art Acevedo, who fired four Houston cops after they shot and killed a man, Nicolas Chavez, who appeared to be suffering from a mental illness.
Another anonymous $100 donation was linked to the official address of that city’s fire chief, Samuel Pea, who had faced recent staff revolts over cost-cutting but has been openly supportive of Acevedo, identifying him as a “brother & partner in Public Safety” when Acevedo declared his intention to become Miami’s chief of police.
“I believe that Chief Acevedo is part of the ‘unrecognized type of police corruption’ that Chris Anderson [sic] wrote about in his book,” according to an email linked to Chris Andersen. “Hang in there, guys!!!” he said.
Andersen’s novel, The Sniper: Hunting A Serial Killer – A True Tale, claims to tell the true story of Houston police hunting down a serial killer at a period when “the United States was experiencing a wave of civil discontent regarding the unwarranted shootings (either true or perceived) of black men by law enforcement (the Black Lives Matter era).”
Andersen describes himself as a “39-year veteran of the Houston police department” who has served in positions such as homicide detective, supervising a Swat squad, and internal affairs, according to his Amazon profile.
The Green Bay police chief, Andrew Smith, wrote in an email that his department is “looking into the matter” about the donations but that his department “does not take a position on other agencies’ use of force.”
Michael Crosley made “an honest mistake,” according to Lynda Seaver, director of public relations at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who wrote in an email that he “never intended to use his Lab email on this matter.”