Atlantic Beach officer fired for alleged sex crimes with minor previously filed discrimination lawsuit

Atlantic Beach officer fired for alleged sex crimes with minor previously filed discrimination lawsuit

ATLANTIC BEACH, SC (WMBF) -The Atlantic Beach police officer arrested for illicit sexual conduct with a minor on Wednesday previously filed a lawsuit against a different department for wrongful termination.

A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division press release said McKnight was charged with misconduct in office, contributing to the delinquency of minor, sexual exploitation of a minor and criminal solicitation of a minor.

According to arrest warrants, McKnight communicated with minors, coercing them into providing him with sexually explicit photos and videos for around a year.

The arrest comes after the Pickens Police Department requested a SLED investigation into McKnight.

McKnight was employed with the Pickens Police Department from January 2016 until May 2018.

The officer filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Pickens Police Department and the city in December 2018.

The suit claimed McKnight was discriminated against for his race and sexual orientation and the department wrongfully discharged him in violation of Public Policy.

McKnight claimed in the lawsuit, “he was romantically pursued by another male over the age of consent.” He goes on to state the other male sent him an unsolicited nude photo.

Documents stated, “the two communicated but did not interact physically.”

The case goes on to claim McKnight was suspended in April for “conduct unbecoming for a police officer.”

According to McKnight, the department changed their position on the matter a few times. McKnight has suspended again and then fired.

In the lawsuit, McKnight said, “The Defendants have engaged in discriminatory practices with malice and reckless indifference to the plaintiff’s federally-protected rights.”

In court documents, the department and city responded by admitting McKnight, “engaged in communications with a high school student of a sexual nature.”

However, the defendants said that communication was not the only misconducted noted in his suspension.

“He was informed that his conduct was improper regardless of whether or not it violated any laws. It was mentioned that his conduct might have contributed to the delinquency of a minor. There was no change,” the court document said of McKnight’s actions.

The defendants further denied any discrimination claims.

McKnight also filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was later issued a right to sue letter from the commission.

Documents from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA) revealed the department terminated McKnight for “violation of AGENCY policy NOT involving misconduct.”

After being fired from the Pickens Police Department, McKnight worked for the Andrews Police Department from late June 2018 to October 2018.

He resigned to take a position with Georgetown. He worked one day for the department before he was fired.

Paperwork from SCCJA shows the department fired him due to “supplemental information obtained after the background investigation was completed.”

In early December 2018, the Atlantic Beach Police Department hired McKnight.

The department fired McKnight on Thursday after “receiving and reviewing a thorough report from SLED”, the city stated in a press release.

In high school, McKnight volunteered with the Charleston Police Department. The department said he was one of the many volunteers who dressed up as McGruff the crime dog.

His LinkedIn page shows he volunteered with the Charleston Police Department’s Explores Post 11 and was a youth sports coach from 2011 to 2013.

Jail records show McKnight is currently being held at the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.

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