A missing 2-year-old turned a Saturday at the ball field into chaos.
But the dad tells WFLA all he saw was a unusual man walking towards the parking lot with his daughter.
After speaking with all parties involved, including witnesses who had seen the man walking with the girl and heard him asking her if passersby were her father, responding law enforcement decided that it had all been a awful mistake on the part of the little girl's family.
The parents of the girl were told that their daughter had been seen with the man, walking towards a playground, police said.
Family and friends of the toddler posted the man's name, picture and place of employment on Facebook, calling him a child predator. He noticed the child had gotten separated from her parents and, according to Lakeland Police, asked the child where her parents were.
The police questioned the man and learned he was in the park visiting friends - off-duty police officers - and that he was only trying to help the girl.
A good Samaritan did what nearly anyone would do: try to reunite a lost child with his or her family. That Good Samaritan tells 10News he left Lakeland because he was afraid of more retaliation.
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A man attempting to help a lost child mistakenly became the bad guy when the parents thought he was a child predator. The father admitted to police that he punched the good Samaritan several times as his friend grabbed the child.
Still, when asked whether he believed the man's innocence, the child's father said no.
Police concluded that the man was only trying to help.
Speaking with FOX 13 News, Sgt. Gary Gross said the Good Samaritan did the right thing. Police say people should be careful what to post on social media because inaccurate posts could victimize innocent people. "I wanted to kill him". The author accused him of trying to take the girl.
The Lakeland Police Department issued a statement on Facebook confirming that it "thoroughly investigated this incident" and found that "no crime was committed". "Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held liable", reads the statement. All in all I'm happy this little girl is safe though. "Before posting information on matters such as this, we encourage people to identify the source and the validity of such claims before sharing them", Gross said.
Only one person called the police department "to get the correct information", the police said.