Florida man charged with involving 8-year-old boy in crime spree: 'I don't want him to be soft'

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A Florida man has been accused of contributing to the delinquency of his 8-year-old son after deputies say he had the kid tag along with him during a recent series of crimes.

When Ernest McKnight III, 36, was asked by a detective why he had the child with him he replied,  “I was trying to toughen him up. … I don’t want him to be soft,” Brian Bruchey, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

Mugshot for Ernest McKnight, 36.
(Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

He said the boy was with McKnight, of Winter Haven, last week when deputies say McKnight burglarized three unoccupied dwellings, stole a car and made off with a package stolen from a porch.The alleged crimes all took place in the City of Lake Wales.

“Taking a child out with you while you're committing felonies is not the proper way to create a positive influence," Sheriff Grady Judd said. “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.” 

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office put out this photo montage after arresting Ernest McKnight III, 36, for a series of crime deputies say he committed last week in the company of his 8-year-old son.   
(Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

An arrrest affidavit says McKnight was arrested Thursday after leading deputies on a high speed chase after they spotted him in the stolen vehicle, a red Hyundai taken from a road surveyor.

The affidavit quotes deputies as saying they clocked McKnight going 120 mph and that only after they caught up with him did they discover he was with a child.

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The boy was reunited with family, Bruchey said.

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