A man called a "Good Samaritan" by police was branded a child predator on social media.
Police said that as the man walked around the crowd with the girls in his arms, her parents were alerted, fearing that he was attempting to kidnap the child.
The 2-year-old had become separated from her folks during a softball game on Saturday at Southwest Sports Complex in Lakeland, and was spotted by a man at the park with his friends, according to a police incident report published Sunday.
The man, however, ended up being attacked by the child's father, who admitted to punching him repeatedly, according to ABC affiliate WFTS.
One of the three men was the girl's father, who told WFLA that he punched the man several times.
But the dad tells WFLA all he saw was a odd man walking towards the parking lot with his daughter.
"You don't just pick up somebody's kids, bro, and walk to the parking lot, or walk in that direction", he said. "I wanted to kill him", he told WFLA.
"It is understandable how parents can possibly be upset in a situation involving a lost child", the statement said.
'Be careful about what you post on social media so as not to victimize an innocent person.
"This guy is a father, a local businessman, he has two children, was trying to help this child, and they turned it completely around, and that's not right", Sgt. Gary Gross with the Lakeland Police Department tells a Tampa TV station. "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. He believed that she was lost and began walking with her to find her parents. That Good Samaritan tells 10News he left Lakeland because he was afraid of more retaliation.
But the father and his friends and family aren't taking the man at his word.
'Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held libel, ' the Lakeland Police Department wrote on its Facebook page.
Only one person called the police department "to get the correct information", the police said. One person commented she shared the post to be helpful, but now feels bad knowing it wasn't. But according to Lakeland Police, it was all a misunderstanding.
After an investigation, charges were not filed against the victim, who refused to press charges against the father. They were going to ruin this guy's life because they were too stubborn to admit they made a mistake.
The police statement did not provide names.
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