LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — It was a moment of sheer panic for one Lakeland couple after their two-year-old daughter went missing at the Southwest Sports Complex over the weekend.
Minutes later they found her – in the arms of a stranger.
The mother can be heard in a 911 call telling the dispatcher, “We took off running, grabbed my kid from him. And, then, then, um, I hit him. I’m not going to lie, I hit him.”
It turns out, the good Samaritan was actually doing a good deed, according to Lakeland Police. He rescued the missing toddler and was trying to bring her back to mother and father.
But in their minds, what they saw, they claim, was far from a rescue.
And that’s where this massive mix-up ended up with a brutal beat down – one that the parents have both defended.
The child’s mother, who has chosen to speak on the condition of anonymity, shared her thoughts with WFLA and NBC News. “Our reaction was to protect our daughter who was only gone for a matter of a minute. How would you react to a stranger carrying your daughter away from a population of people?”
“Our reaction was to protect our daughter who was only gone for a matter of a minute,” she said. “How would you react to a stranger carrying your daughter away from a population of people?”
The good Samaritan is also sharing his side of the story.
He says he saw the little girl by herself, alone in a field. He explained that no one was around and that since he is a father of two, he felt compelled to help the child.
He was horrified by the reaction he got.
“So, I sat down and I said to her, where’s your daddy? Where’s your daddy? This and that, and where’s your mom? Or, anybody with you? She didn’t answer, but she’s constantly pointing her finger at the playground,” he said. “So, I tried to take her there, and then, she hesitates, so I carried her, looking around if anyone was there.”
When all was said and done, the police determined the man did nothing wrong.
However, they also maintain that the parents were also in the right. The mother and father are not facing criminal charges in the matter.
As for the good Samaritan, he explained that the nightmare is just beginning for him.
After the beat-down and a trip to the hospital with injuries, he was then shamed on social media, labeled as a child molester and kidnapper on Facebook.
But, he also told us, if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t do anything differently.
“Knowing I have two daughters, I wouldn’t do anything differently,” he said. “Because if my daughter was in the same situation, I would’ve sent somebody to help her, instead of just leave her by herself and let somebody snatch her.”
The good Samaritan has since left Lakeland with his family, fearing for their safety amidst death threats.