Former Pickens police officer charged with sex crimes

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PICKENS Co., S.C. (WSPA) — A former Pickens police officer who alleges he was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated has been charged with sex crimes against a minor.

Akiel Jamar McKnight, 28, was jailed early Thursday morning.

SLED (S.C. Law Enforcement Division) said in a news release that McKnight was an officer with the Pickens Police Department.

McKnight is charged with criminal solicitation of a minor, two counts each of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts each of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and misconduct in office.

The Atlantic Beach Police Department, where McKnight is currently employed, said they were informed Wednesday by SLED that they had several warrants for McKnight stemming from his time in Pickens.

According to the Atlantic Beach Police Department, McKnight was brought on at a probationary level with the department on December 13th, 2018.

McKnight is currently suspended without pay pending the report from SLED.

The U.S. Marshal Service, SLED and Horry County Sheriff’s Department took McKnight into custody Wednesday. He was then brought to Pickens County Detention Center where he is being held without bond.

SLED was asked to launch an investigation after McKnight was fired from the Pickens Police department.

7News is told that McKnight was a patrol officer for the agency from Jan. 4 2016 through May 30, 2018.

Arrest warrants say the alleged crimes happened between October 2017 and November 2018.

McKnight is accused of asking a minor to send him sexually explicit photographs and/or videos, as well as having, exchanging or soliciting material that showed a minor “engaged in sexual activity or appearing in a state of sexually explicit nudity when a reasonable person would infer the purpose is sexual stimulation,” according to arrest warrants.

In November, McKnight filed a lawsuit against Pickens Police Department. The city of Pickens and Police Chief Travis Riggs are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

McKnight says in the lawsuit he was romantically pursued by a male over the age of consent who sent him an unsolicited nude photo. McKnight claims they communicated, but there was no physical interaction.

McKnight alleges he was suspended for two weeks without pay for conduct unbecoming a police officer in April 2018, before he was later accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and suspended then fired.

McKnight is suing for damages, claiming employment discrimination and wrongful discharge.

The city of Pickens said in a statement that SLED asked to investigate a former employee.

The city declined to comment further on the pending investigation and referred questions to attorney Chuck Thompson.

“We do not think the lawsuit has merit, we intend to vigorously defend,” Thompson said in a statement.

Records from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy shows McKnight worked at four different police departments in the state within a 6-month period last year.

The following is the justice academy’s record of McKnight’s work history:

  • He was fired from the Pickens Police Department on May 31, 2018
  • He was then hired by Andrews Police Department on June 28, 2018
  • He then resigned from Andrews PD on Oct. 11, 2018
  • He was hired by Georgetown Police Department on Oct. 15, 2018
  • He was then fired by Georgetown PD the next day on Oct. 16, 2018, after the department obtained supplemental background information on McKnight
  • He was then hired by Atlantic Beach Police Department on Dec. 3, 2018, where he was employed until he was arrested.

McKnight termination from the Atlantic Beach Police Department was effective around 2 p.m. on Jan. 3, according to a statement from Town of Atlantic Beach officials.

“After receiving and reviewing a thorough report from SLED, the Town of Atlantic Beach is justified in terminating Akiel McKnight from his probationary period with our Police Department,” town officials said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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