A breach of data on a Christian crowdfunding website revealed that police officers and government officials had donated money to raise funds for accused vigilantes, far-right activists and colleagues, officers accused of shooting black Americans.
In many of these cases, donations were attached to their official email addresses, raising questions about the use of public resources to support such campaigns.
The breach, shared with journalists from the Distributed Denial of Secrets transparency group, revealed details of some donors who had previously tried to conceal their identities through GiveSendGo’s anonymity feature, but whose credentials the website has retained.
Beneficiaries of donations from government officials are Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two left-wing protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August. Rittenhouse travels with weapons from neighboring Illinois to offer at his own expense armed protection of the business during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, who became a celebrity in the conservative media in late 2020 and was even backed by then-President Donald Trump, held a fundraiser at GiveSendGo, which was declared a contribution to his legal protection. According to data from the site, he collected 586,940 dollars between August 27, 2020 and January 7, 2021.
Among the donors were several related email addresses, traceable to police and other government officials.
A $ 25 donation, made on September 3, 2020, was made anonymously, but is related to the official email address of Sergeant William Kelly, who currently serves as a police officer in the police department in Norfolk, Virginia.
This donation also contains a commentary that reads, “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You haven’t done anything wrong.
The comment continued: “Every police officer from the official staff supports you. Do not be discouraged by the actions of the political class of the leadership of law enforcement agencies. “
Another donor to Rittenhouse using an official email address is Craig Shepard, who according to public records is a paramedic in Utah. This donor gave $ 10 to Rittenhouse on August 30, 2020.
Donations also came to Rittenhouse related to the official email addresses of Keith Silvers and an employee of Huntsville, Alabama, and another $ 100 was related to the official address of Michael Crosley, an engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the body in charge of maintaining the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States.
Meanwhile, several Wisconsin police officers donated a fundraiser, “Support Rusten Shesky,” to a Kenosha police officer whose shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, sparked protests that drew Rittenhouse to the city.
Two $ 20 donations to Shesky’s fund were linked to the email addresses of a couple of lieutenants at the Green Bay, Wisconsin Police Department. One, given the name ‘GBPD Officer’, was linked to an address linked to Chad Ramos, a training lieutenant in the department; another anonymous donation is related to Keith A. Goering, who is listed as a school resource lieutenant.
Another donation for Shesky was related to the official email address of Officer Pat Gainer of the Pleasant Prairie, a Wisconsin police station. Given the screen name “PPPD Motor 179”, the donation also contains the comment: “Stay strong brother”.
Another 32 donations totaling more than $ 5,000 came to Shesky from private email addresses related to Kenosha officers, but under badge numbers, not names.
More anonymous donations to the site came from Houston, Texas city officials, who objected to the actions of then-Police Chief Art Acevedo, who fired four Houston police officers after shooting and killing a man, Nicolas Chavez, who was on his knees and apparently mental health crisis.
An anonymous $ 100 donation was linked to the official address of the city’s fire chief, Samuel Pena, who himself has faced recent riots over cost cuts but who publicly supports Acevedo, tweeting him as a “brother.” and a public safety partner ”in March, when Acevedo announced he would begin a meeting as Miami police chief.
Another $ 400 anonymous donation was attributed to Chris Andersen’s e-mail site, which commented: “I think Chief Acevedo is part of the ‘unrecognized form of police corruption’ that Chris Anderson [sic] writes about him in his book. “Keep there, boys !!!”
Andersen’s book The Sniper: Hunting a Serial Killer – A True Story aims to tell the story of a serial killer hunt by Houston police at a time when “the United States was experiencing a wave of civil discontent over the unjustified shootings (or real, or perceived) by blacks by law enforcement (the Black Lives Matter era) ”.
In his biography for Amazon, Andersen described himself as a “39-year veteran of the Houston Police Department” and worked in roles, including a homicide detective, overseeing a special forces and home affairs team.
In an email, Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith wrote of the donations that “we are looking into the matter,” but added to Shesky’s actions that his department “does not take a position on the use of force by other agencies.”
Linda Sever, director of public affairs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, wrote in an email that Michael Crosley had made an “honest mistake” and “never intended to use his email in the laboratory.”
All other agencies and individuals included in the Guardian report did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Earlier, the Guardian reported on the use of the site to raise funds for far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, which have been banned by other crowdfunding platforms following incidents of violence, including the alleged involvement of group members in an attack on the United States Capitol Building. on January 6th.