LAKELAND, Florida -- Police say a Good Samaritan was trying to help a little girl who got separated from her parents, but the child's family ended up beating the man and calling him a child predator on social media.
A missing 2-year-old turned a Saturday at the ball field into chaos. But according to Lakeland Police, it was all a misunderstanding. They said Good Samaritan spotted the child and tried to help her find her parents.
"An independent witness didn't know the family or anybody said they saw him pointing out at different men, 'Is that your father?'" said Sgt. Gary Gross.
The Good Samaritan told police the little girl pointed at this park, so that's where he was taking her to find her parents. But the dad tells us all he saw was this strange man walking towards this parking lot with his daughter.
"I wanted to kill the man," the girl's father told WFLA.
When the girl's father caught up to the man, he admits, he punched him "probably about five or six times."
Investigators determined the man was just trying to do the right thing, but since the incident, there's been a social media firestorm.
Family and friends of the toddler posted the man's name, photo and place of employment, calling him a child predator.
WFLA called him, but he was too terrified to talk. He said he even had to take his own family out of town.
"This guy, is a father, a local businessman, has two children, was trying to help this child. But they turned it completely around and that's not right," Sgt. Gross said.
The girl's father just isn't buying it.
REPORTER: "Do you buy that he was trying to find her parents?"
FATHER: "No, hell no, I don't. Not at all!"
The Good Samaritan did not file any charges against the girl's family. Police say people should be careful what to post on social media because inaccurate posts could victimize innocent people.
Man helping lost toddler beaten, shamed on social media, police say