Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly, who is accused of fatally shooting an immigrant who trespassed onto his cattle farm, was arrested on Monday, February 6, 2023. The 73-year-old was charged with first-degree murder and is being held at a Santa Cruz County jail with a bail bond set to $1 million.
Multiple GoFundMe campaigns were set up to collect funds to help Kelly and his family. The website promptly took down several pages that were dedicated to aiding George Alan Kelly to reach his bail target, citing conflicts with its policy. A company representative explained to the New York Post that:
"GoFundMe’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibits campaigns that raise money to cover the legal defense of anyone formally charged with an alleged violent crime."
According to police, the rancher allegedly shot down 48-year-old Mexican citizen Gabriel Cuen-Butimea on January 30, 2023, for infringing on his Kino Springs property, which is located barely 1.5 miles away from the US-Mexico border.
GoFundMe refunded any and all funds to donors who contributed towards George Alan Kelly’s legal expenses
After news of George Alan Kelly's arrest and bail bond amount spread, several people spoke out against the "political" move. They defended the rancher, stating that he would not have acted harshly unless he was provoked and that he was defending his home. One of the crowdfunding campaign creators, Shannon Pritchard, wrote on the page:
"Neighbors say that he had been having difficulty keeping invaders out and say that Mr. Kelly would have acted in good faith."
Arizona has a "stand your ground" rule that allows threatening and/or using physical force against anyone trespassing as a means of protection. Additionally, law enforcement authorities recovered two assault rifles from Kelly's property. Gabriel was believed to be unarmed at the time of the incident.
The 73-year-old had requested the court to reduce his bail money so that he can go home to his elderly wife to help her take care of her, the ranch, and the livestock. This was denied.
While investigations are underway, many have also speculated that Gabriel lived in Nogales, Mexico, and was illegally crossing into the country. Others wondered if the two men knew each other. However, there were a few who called Kelly a "patriot" and stated that the government wronged him.
The crowdfunding website reported that several campaigns were set up by anonymous supporters. While some cited the cause as help to his wife, others cited bail money. After taking down certain pages, the website released a statement defending its move:
"Consistent with (the) long-standing policy, any fundraising campaigns for the legal defense of someone charged with murder are removed from our platform."
GoFundMe added that they have issued a refund of contributions to these pages.
A donation page was set up on GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding website
GiveSendGo founder Heather Wilson explained that she did not remove the page to help George Alan Kelly's legal team from her website. She reasoned that the company operated on a presumption of "innocent until proven guilty." She added:
"We understand we are not the judge and jury; we will not take down campaigns based on own biases... We will be praying for all involved."
The website is infamous for allowing a page in support of Kenosha rioter shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.
George Alan Kelly is still in custody awaiting his next scheduled appearance in court.