A Florida mom used her quick wits to save two young girls from reportedly being abducted after realizing the man who claimed to be their father was actually a total stranger.
The unsettling incident began in FishHawk’s park square on Sunday, when two friends under the age of 12 left Cherry’s Bar and Grill restaurant around 6 p.m.. According to reports, a strange man came up to the girls and told them he was going to “supervise” their walk home.
Jessica Lang of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office explained to WFLA:
“He did not know these children and these children definitely did not know him.”
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Officials said after the man started following the friends, who were riding bikes, he repeatedly hit one of the girls in the head. The young pair tried to get away from him by pedaling toward a nearby church. Lang continued:
“At this point, he’s following them out of the restaurant and starts to hit one of the children over the head and continues to follow them. Thankfully these children stuck together and rode their bikes to a nearby church and asked an adult for help.”
But the man had the audacity to follow the girls inside the church — where he actually tried to claim that they were his children.
Fortunately, one churchgoer — a mother — sensed something was off. The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, told Fox7 that she “saw two children on their bicycles and a male adult behind them,” adding that one of the little girls started silently mouthing to her:
“Please help me, this is not my dad.”
The heroic woman continued:
“He was kind of talking over her, right behind her, putting his arm around her neck and saying something in her ear, saying, ‘We just moved here, we just want to see how we can help do whatever you’re doing.’”
Instead of popping off on him and potentially instigating a dangerous reaction, the mom made a smart decision: she welcomed the group into the church and distracted him with questions until she had an opportunity to call 911.
“I engaged in conversation with him. I said, ‘Oh that’s nice, where did you move here from?’ He said, ‘Oh, I am not really sure.’”
Hillsborough County deputies quickly responded to the scene, and found the man, who was later identified as David Daniels (above), not too far from the church, on his way back towards downtown.
The 37-year-old was arrested on two counts each of false imprisonment of a child and child abuse. He’s being held on $104,000 bond.
Afterwards, both girls told police they feared they were being kidnapped. Meanwhile, the woman said she didn’t “want any recognition for” her actions, telling the station off-camera:
“I don’t want to be a hero. I just did what I hope anybody would do for my own kids. There are moms out there who are like me. They are going to recognize the signs, and they are going to know what to do. In that moment, I didn’t know if I was going to have the right answer. But they are fine, and they are home today.”
Lang, however, sees the act as nothing but heroic. The official said:
“Members of this church really stepped up to protect children that were not theirs. They saw that something was wrong and they saved these children.”
We’re so glad this story got a happy ending! Still so scary though.
[Image via Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]