Police say that a good Samaritan who found a toddler roaming around a Central Florida park this weekend got quite the surprise from the girl's father: a beating.
NBC affiliate WFLA-TV reports that the man found the 2-year-old girl Saturday inside a Lakeland park. He noticed the child had gotten separated from her parents and, according to Lakeland police, asked the child where her parents were.
Witnesses say they saw the man walking with the girl, pointing to various adults and asking if they were her parents. Several others inside the park told the girl’s parents, who told WFLA they thought something bad was happening to their child.
“I thought he was trying to take my daughter,” the girl’s father said during a phone interview.
Police say three men, including the father, approached the man and began punching him.
“I saw this man with my daughter in his hands walking toward the parking lot. What would you do?” the father said.
After an investigation, charges were not filed against the victim, and he refused to press charges against the father.
"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,” Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross said.
Friends of the girl’s family began posting photos of the good Samaritan on social media, as well as his Facebook page, phone number and business location, while calling him a “child predator.”
The victim spoke with NBC News, saying he understood why the girl's parents would be upset — he has two daughters and was in the park to see a friend — but that they should have talked to him before attacking him. He's left town in the wake of the social media campaign.
"One crazy guy comes out of nowhere and does something stupid, then I'm in trouble," Utpal Patel said.
When asked by the station whether he believes the victim was trying to do a good thing, the girl’s father told the station, "Hell no I don't. Not at all."