The Virginia police lieutenant fired from his department in April for anonymously donating to Kenosha, Wisc., shooter Kyle Rittenhouse's defense fund says he wasn't provided due process by his department.
"I thought I was a free man in America expressing his personal opinion to somebody, giving some words of encouragement and making a simple donation," former Norfolk Lt. William Kelly told Fox News.
Kelly, who served for 19 years and was just 10 months from receiving his retirement savings without a penalty, was fired on April 19. His $25 donation to Rittenhouse's fund surfaced following a data breach to the anonymous crowd-funding site.
Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting two protesters during the Jacob Blake demonstrations in Kenosha last summer.
Kelly's donation landed him in the national spotlight, possibly due to an accompanying phrase he wrote with the contribution that read: "You've done nothing wrong. Every rank and file police officer supports you."
"In my mind I thought it was going to blow away," he said. "We have a 24-hour news cycle and I thought I would come back to work the next week."
A colleague called Kelly to tell him about the data breach.
"I only read the portion that was in relation to me, and I immediately called my boss, let him know what had happened," Kelly told Fox.
"I didn't think that anything I said was egregious. I didn't think that my opinion was outside the realm of normal public discourse. So, I honestly did not think it was going to be a big deal."
Kelly spoke to Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone that Friday. By Monday, he was fired.
"He was talking with the city manager on the sidewalk. I greeted him, he called me over and he just put his hands on my shoulders and didn't say anything for a while. And then he kind of patted my shoulder with his hand and said, 'Bad. We'll talk later,'" Kelly recalled. The chief never called back or returned his messages.
Kelly's attorneys, Andrew Protogyrou and Raymond L. Hogge, Jr, filed a grievance on May 7 to challenge Kelly's termination and request full reinstatement along with back pay, restoration of leave, benefits, seniority, and rank as well as the expungement of dismissal and public announcement.
"I engaged in speech which was private and anonymous but became public through no fault of my own, and which, when made public, upset a small number of vocal people for a very short time," Kelly said.
"The Chief of Police of Norfolk Police Department, in contract, has been permitted to parade through the streets of Norfolk, wearing his Norfolk Police Department uniform, holding a 'Black Lives Matter' sign while marking with a crowd protesting against police and law enforcement."
Kelly said he would return to work immediately if given the option.
"I love my job, I love law enforcement as a career. It's part of who I am," he said.
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