A man was walking around Southwest Sports Complex in Lakeland, Florida, when he spotted a toddler wandering around alone.
Instead of just walking by, he stopped to help her find her parents.
That kind move earned him a beating and the label of a child predator, according to WFLA.
The man was with his friend, a Polk Sheriff’s Office deputy, when he found the lost 2-year-old toddler by herself; he hoped that by walking around with her, she would find her parents.Screenshot/WFLA
According to Fox 13, Lakeland police Sgt. Gary Gross explained:
“He saw that the child was in danger. She was wandering off and he did the right thing by going to her, getting her attention, trying to find the parents. We had an independent eyewitness that saw him walking around, asking, ‘Is this your parents? Is that your father?'”
Her father, Austin Strickland, noticed his child was missing as he entered the dugout. He saw her with the man trying to do a good deed, but he didn’t say thank you. Instead, he attacked him, punching him multiple times. Strickland defended his actions, telling Fox 13:
“You’re damn right [I punched him]. I wanted to kill the man, You just don’t take someone else’s kid and walk to the parking lot or walk in that direction.”
Strickland was afraid the man was attempting to kidnap his child.
Gross told WFLA of Strickland’s actions:
“In the heat of the moment the parents were scared, and I’m sure shocked. What they see as an individual with their child walking off, but he was a Good Samaritan trying to get that child back to her parents.”
Police spoke with witnesses and determined the good Samaritan did not commit a crime by helping the lost toddler. They also confirmed that the man does not have a criminal background.
That was still not enough for Strickland, though. When he was asked if he believed the man’s side of the story, he told WFLA:
“No. Hell no I don’t. Not at all.”
Not only did Strickland attack the man physically, but friends and family members also went after the good Samaritan online by posting about him on social media.Screenshot/WFLA
Not only did they spread the man’s personal information, including his name, photo, and business information, but they also posted photos of his children and put out a warning that the man was trying to kidnap children.
For its part, the Lakeland Police Department also put out a warning on Facebook after false information and twisted stories about the man who found girl started showing up on social media.
Incident at Southwest Sports Complex.On June 24, at approximately 3:35 p.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded…
It reminded people:
Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held libel. Be careful about what you post on social media so as not to victimize an innocent person.
The man who wanted to help a lost child be safely returned to her parents has now left the Lakeland area temporarily out of fear for his children’s safety.