Florida man accused of bringing along boy, 8, during multi-day crime spree to ‘toughen him up’

·2 min read
A Florida man was arrested after bringing an eight-year-old boy along on a crime spree as he wanted to “toughen him up.” (Polk County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook)
A Florida man was arrested after bringing an eight-year-old boy along on a crime spree as he wanted to “toughen him up.” (Polk County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook)

A Florida man was arrested after bringing an eight-year-old boy along on a crime spree as he wanted to “toughen him up.”

Ernest McKnight III told police officers he took the youngster with him so that he would not grow up “soft”, according to Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“Taking a child out with you while committing felonies is not the proper way to create a positive influence. I’m quite confident that there is not a child psychologist out there who would agree with this guy’s idea of proper activity for a child,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

And the sheriff’s department even mocked McKnight on Facebook by posting a photo collage with his mugshot and a red Hyundai under the title of the 1990 comedy film Ernest Goes to Jail.

Deputies say that the first crime took place on 7 November when McKnight, 36, allegedly stole a red Hyundai while its owner was doing surveying for construction work.

He was then seen on 12 November allegedly rummaging through a Chevrolet car, before later allegedly stealing a package from a front porch and telling the homeowner “it’s mine now” before taking off in the stolen car.

McKnight was later arrested when he refused to pull over for a traffic stop but was tracked down by a helicopter unit behind a house in the Lake Wales area.

When asked by a detective why the unidentified boy, thought to be his son, was with him he reportedly replied: ”I was trying to toughen him up. I don’t want him to be soft.”

The youngster, who was not named by police, was quickly reunited with family.

McKnight, of Lake Wales, faces charges of burglary of an occupied dwelling, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, grand theft motor vehicle, tampering with evidence, petit theft and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office says McKnight’s prior criminal history includes charges for possession of a firearm by convicted felon, domestic violence, loitering, narcotics, resisting, theft, and driving with a suspended or revoked licence.

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