Man helping lost toddler beaten, shamed on social media, police say
Man helping lost toddler beaten, shamed on social media, police say
Accused Florida kidnapper was actually helping lost child, police say
28 June, 2017, 23:43
On Saturday, police in Lakeland responded to a disturbance call at a sports complex after a two-year-old wandered away from her parents during a softball game.
A man in Florida was beaten and smeared on social media as being a child predator after he tried to help reunite a toddler with her parents.
Then, you have the parents, who see a stranger carrying their little girl in the direction of the parking lot afraid he's trying to kidnap her.
Witnesses say they saw the man walking with the girl, pointing to various adults and asking if they were her parents.
He walked with the girl to try and help her find her parents, police said.
The man did decide to leave the area with his family for a while, though, just to make sure they're safe.
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Believing she was lost, the man asked the child where her parents were and walked around the premises with her in hopes she could point them out. "One person today called the Lakeland Police Department speaking with a supervisor to get the correct information".
According to The Washington Post, the man has since left the Florida town of Lakeland with his family, fearing for their safety and his own.
According to NBC News affiliate WFLA, the child's father and two other men approached the citizen and punched him several times as another man grabbed the child. "I wanted to kill him". They confirmed the man who was trying to help was visiting friends who happened to be off-duty deputies.
Friends of the girl's family began posting photos of the reported Good Samaritan on social media, as well as his Facebook page and his phone number and business location while calling him a "child predator". Investigators determined the man was just trying to do the right thing, but since the incident, there's been a social media firestorm. Three men found him walking with the girl and he ended up becoming the victim as he was punched.
To quickly combat the spread of false information, Lakeland police posted the facts - and a warning: "Be careful about what you post on social media so as to not victimize an innocent person". But the good Samaritan got battered on the internet much worse: His name, his picture, his kids' pictures, and where he works - all went viral. "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.
Lakeland police warned people that the Facebook post contained "false information and speculation".
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