Former Mass. police officer decertified over role in deadly Charlottesville rally

In October, Woburn Police Department launched an internal investigation into John Donnelly's alleged involvement in the "Unite the Right" rally.

A former Woburn police officer, who authorities say helped organize a deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been decertified by the Massachusetts commission that oversees law enforcement standards.

John Donnelly was put on paid administrative leave on Oct. 13, as the Woburn Police Department launched an internal investigation into allegations that he planned and participated in an August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally — a gathering of neo-Nazis and Klu Klux Klan members, some of whom carried torches and weapons while chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans.

During the rally, counter-protestor Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when James Alex Fields Jr., an avowed white supremacist now in prison for federal hate crimes, deliberately drove into the crowd.


Woburn Police Department’s internal probe was launched the same day HuffPost published a report, detailing Donnelly’s alleged role in Charlottesville.

Donnelly resigned from the department Oct. 17, before Woburn’s internal investigation concluded.

In the days after, Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin and police Chief Robert F. Rufo Jr. released details from the internal probe, noting that they found that he “violated multiple department policies through involvement in extremist groups.”

He allegedly used anti-Semitic and racist language, and provided security for rally organizers, including white nationalist alt-right leader Richard Spencer.

The probe also found that Donnelly, using the alias “Johnny O’Malley” in person and online, associated with Identity Evropa, a now-disbanded group that the Anti-Defamation League described as “a white supremacist group focused on the preservation of ‘white American culture’ and promoting white European identity.”

Woburn officials submitted their findings with the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, or the POST Commission, and recommended that Donnelly be decertified.

The commission, released details of Donnelly’s voluntary decertification agreement on April 13, followed by an official decertification order on April 21.

Under the voluntary decertification, Donnelly revokes his certification as a police officer in Massachusetts. His name will be added to the National Decertification Index, per the order.


WCVB-TV first reported the news of Donnelly’s decertification on Monday.

Material from previous reporting was used.


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