A man was beaten, smeared on social media after trying to help lost toddler find parents
A Florida man was beaten and later smeared on social media after parents believed he was trying to kidnap their daughter. Their two-year-old daughter had wandered off and when a stranger attempted to help the scared little girl find her parents, confusion and panic took over, leaving what many are calling a “Good Samaritan” fearing for his life.
According to the Lakeland Police Department, the little girl wandered away from her father, who was getting ready to play softball at the Southwest Sports Complex. “A citizen who was at the game visiting a few friends noticed the young girl wandering by herself and believed that she was lost,” Lakeland PD posted on their Facebook page. “The citizen attempted to ask the girl where her parents were and walked with her in hopes she could point them out.”
The parents at some point were made aware of the stranger walking with their child towards a playground (which was near the parking lot) and jumped into action, fearing their daughter was being kidnapped. When the stranger, a father of two, tried explaining the situation to her father, he was knocked to the ground and repeatedly hit and kicked.
“When I got there, I just swung on him,” the father, Austin Strickland, told ABC affiliate WFTS. He said he doesn’t regret assaulting him.
“You don’t pick somebody’s kid up in that direction, towards the parking lot, whether you were going towards the parking lot or not,” Strickland said.
According to Lakeland PD, “Police officers thoroughly investigated this incident, interviewed witness and based upon their investigation, no crime was committed. The citizen does not have a criminal history and officers verified that he was in fact there visiting friends.”
Strickland and his family were apparently not satisfied with the outcome and took to Facebook, where they shared his name, pictures of him and his kids, and his place of employment and called him a “child predator,” Yahoo News reports. Unfortunately once it hit social media, this Good Samaritan’s information spread everywhere.
The man and his family left town, afraid for their lives after receiving threats multiple outlets report.
Understandably, this father was panicked and adrenaline took over, but taking one minute to understand the situation and let police determine what is happening could have saved a lot of pain and confusion on both sides.
“Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held liable,” Lakeland PD warned. “Be careful about what you post on social media so as not to victimize an innocent person.”