The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Lake Wales man Thursday, November 12, 2020, after he committed a series of crimes over several days, some while he was accompanied by an eight-year-old child.
36-year-old Ernest McKnight III was booked-in at the Polk County Jail and charged with: Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling (F2), Burglary of an Unoccupied Dwelling (F2), Burglary of Unoccupied Conveyance (F3), Grand Theft Motor Vehicle (F3), Tampering with Evidence (F3), Petit Theft (M1), and 3-counts of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.
When asked by a detective why he had the child with him, McKnight replied, “I was trying to toughen him up…I don’t want him to be soft.”
“Taking a child out with you while you 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.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff
On Saturday, November 7th, McKnight stole an unoccupied idling red Hyundai that was parked alongside of State Road 60 and Central Avenue in Lake Wales. The driver of the vehicle was outside of the car doing surveying for construction at the time of the theft.
On Thursday, November 12th, at around 7:00 am, a man parked his Chevy HHR alongside County Road 653, south of the Lake Ashton community to walk his dog. During that time, he spotted a man (McKnight) rummaging through the HHR. McKnight fled the scene in the stolen red Hyundai.
About five hours later, a Lake Wales resident witnessed an unknown man (McKnight) stealing a package from the victim’s front porch. The victim yelled at McKnight to return the package, and McKnight yelled back, “It’s mine now!” McKnight fled the area in the red Hyundai.
Lake Wales Police attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle, but McKnight refused to stop. The PCSO Aviation Unit was able to locate the vehicle behind a residence in the area of Rosalie Lake Road and Tupelo Lane near Lake Wales. McKnight was arrested there, and the child was reunited with his family.
In addition to the charges from PCSO, McKnight received additional charges from Lake Wales PD.
Ernest McKnight’s prior criminal history includes charges for Possession of a Firearm by Convicted Felon, Domestic Violence, Loitering/Prowling, Narcotics, Resisting, Theft, and DWLSR. He has been to prison once in 2009.