Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
National | By Rosalie Gross

"Good Samaritan" punched for trying to find lost girl's parents

Police said that as the man walked around the crowd with the girls in his arms, her parents were alerted, fearing that he was attempting to kidnap the child.

The Florida man, who was not identified by authorities, was trying to help a 2-year-old separated from her parents while at a baseball game in the Southwest Sports Complex in Lakeland, FL on Saturday. But the dad tells us all he saw was this odd man walking towards this parking lot with his daughter. The man, who was punched by the girl's father, declined to have charges filed against him.

After the attack, the dad and several others took to social media, naming the citizen, posting photos of him and his family and making derogatory comments.

"An independent witness who didn't know the family or anybody said they saw him pointing out different males saying 'is that your father?'" Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross said in an interview with WFLA.

Three men found the man and the little girl.

REPORTER: "Do you buy that he was trying to find her parents?" FATHER: "No, hell no, I don't". The father admitted to police that he punched the good Samaritan several times as his friend grabbed the child. "What would you do?" the father asked. Patel does not have any criminal history and was at the park visiting friends. 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.

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Lakeland police quickly tried to combat the spread of false information and issued a warning on Facebook: "Be careful about what you post on social media so as to not victimize an innocent person".

Utpaul Patel, the Good Samaritan who police say was trying to locate the young girl's parents after she wandered off a ball field, moved away from his hometown of Lakeland after he was erroneously labeled a child predator on social media. "I wanted to kill him".

The police department said it "thoroughly investigated" the incident and concluded that no crime was committed.

'Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held libel, ' the Lakeland Police Department wrote on its Facebook page.

Strickland told WFTS that he did not regret beating the man up and was still uncertain whether or not the man was trying to abduct his daughter. All in all I'm happy this little girl is safe though.

Screenshot of social media post shared based on what police say was false information (some elements blurred by FOX 13).

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