Panhandler claims he's unemployed miner - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Panhandler claims he's unemployed miner

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Brandon McKnight Brandon McKnight

Several people in Kanawha City have reported that a man dressed as a coal miner has stood on 35th Street, asking for money, every day for the past two weeks.

We found Brandon McKnight outside the Taco Bell in Kanawha City. McKnight claimed he was laid off two weeks ago from Speed Mining near Cabin Creek.

McKnight presented an identification card for proof of his former profession, but people say they've seen him in Kanawha City for almost three weeks.

"There's a bunch of them," said James Dahl, who has been working on a construction project at Taco Bell for the past three weeks. "You see him all over. He's got different new hats every day. It's weird. Where would you get that stuff?"

Dahl added that McKnight works with a crew consisting of two to three panhandlers that travels throughout Kanawha City, asking people for money.

"It's not right, at all," Dahl said. "It's ridiculous."

Technically, asking for change on the street isn't illegal. But a Charleston city ordinance forbids unrestricted and unauthorized begging on the streets or in public. And impersonating another person while begging could create extra charges in an arrest, according to Lt. Steve Cooper, with Charleston Police.

"Many panhandlers are able bodied and they choose not to work," Cooper said. "And they brag and say how much money they make."

McKnight said he makes $50 to $100 per day. That means if he stood in his same place every day for a year, he would make $36,500.

"It's not coal mining money," said McKnight, who lives in Boone County. "But it's more money than working at McDonalds."

Before a 13News reporter asked him whether he collected unemployment, McKnight ran across the street to speak with another man who claimed he was offering McKnight work. Dahl and other construction workers said McKnight works with those associates to panhandle cash.

"Panhandlers are not out-of-work citizens," Cooper said. "They hold signs that claim that they are, but generally that's a scam.

McKnight has short, dark brown hair, weighs approximately 140-160 pounds., and appears to be in his mid-to-late 20s.