LAKELAND, Fla. (WSVN) — Police are setting the record straight after a man was attacked for trying to help a lost girl find her parents.
According to Lakeland Police, the incident took place Saturday, when Austin Strickland was attending a softball game with his 2-year-old daughter. It wasn’t until Strickland made it to the dugout that he noticed his daughter had wandered away.
Strickland’s daughter was found by a good Samaritan who attempted to find the girl’s parents, Fox 13 reports. While doing so, Strickland saw the man and assumed his intentions were malicious.
“I thought he was trying to take my daughter,” Strickland told WFLA over the phone.
Strickland then went up to the good Samaritan and began punching him repeatedly.
“I saw this man with my daughter in his hands walking toward the parking lot. What would you do?” Strickland told WFLA. “I wanted to kill him.”
According to FOX 13, Strickland punched the man at least a half-dozen times.
After the incident, images of the good Samaritan, along with his personal information, place of work, and photos of his own children started to spread across the internet. The posts were accompanied with warnings to watch out for him, saying he may pose a threat to children.
Lakeland Police took to Facebook to clear up the matter, and said their investigation showed that the good Samaritan was simply trying to find the girl’s parents.
“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,” stated LPD Sgt. Gary Gross. “We had an independent eyewitness that saw him walking around, asking, ‘Is this your parents? Is that your father?’”
Police also said the Samaritan had no criminal history and was simply trying to do the right thing. They warned the public about making accusations online.
“Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held liable,” they warned. “Be careful about what you post on social media so as to not victimize an innocent person.”
However, Strickland doesn’t buy the man’s version of what happened. “No. Hell, no, I don’t. Not at all,” he told WFLA.
Despite the attack, police said the good Samaritan will not be pressing charges against the father because, as a father himself, he says he understands the feelings of trepidation the other man may have been experiencing.
However, FOX 13 reported the good Samaritan temporarily left the area in order to ensure the safety of his family.
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