I would have filed charges against this piece of trash. UPDATE: It has been reported the Good Samaritan left town after being harassed online by this idiot.
LPD: Lakeland man helping lost 2-year-old find her parents attacked by girl’s father, 2 others
By Mike Ferguson
Posted Jun 26, 2017 at 9:34 PM
Updated at 8:04 AM
LAKELAND – There were big swings and strikes Saturday at the Southwest Sports Complex, but not just on the field.
Austin Strickland, 22, of Lakeland, is accused of striking Utpal Patel, 39, before 4 p.m. Saturday after Patel tried to help Strickland’s 2-year-old daughter find her parents, according to the Lakeland Police Department. Strickland said he was just concerned for her well-being.
According to the LPD report, Patel and friends, including a Polk County deputy, had come to the complex to watch friends play softball. Patel told police that he later noticed a young girl, Kaydence Strickland, wandering lost and tried to help her locate her parents.
According to the report, Patel took the girl by the hand and asked her whether each man was “her daddy.” After telling Patel no many times, the young girl became agitated and tried to pull away. Fearing for her safety, Patel told police that he picked the girl up and began walking in the direction the young girl initially pointed, walking toward a playground, between 50 and 75 yards from where she was first located.
While walking toward the east side of the complex, Patel told police he was approached from behind by three white men. One took the girl from Patel’s arms and the other two began striking Patel in the face. Police noticed Patel’s face was swollen with a minor cut. Patel was able to identify Austin Strickland as one of the punchers, but the other two men’s identities are unknown.
According to a police report, Strickland and Kaydence’s mother, Autumn Terwilliger, told police that their daughter was not near the dugout where they had seen her last and they began searching for her. Strickland told police that another spectator told him that the girl was in the custody of an Indian man. Strickland told police that he thought Patel posed an imminent threat to his daughter.
“That’s all he was trying to do was help her locate the parents,” LPD spokesman Gary Gross said. “She had already wandered off and was out of her parents’ sight when he picked her up. Next thing you know, he’s getting hit without a word being said to him.”
Strickland disputes the claim that his daughter was wandering. Strickland, who was playing one of many softball games Saturday, said that from the time he saw her last to the time he noticed she was gone could not have been more than 30 or 45 seconds.
“I don’t know (Patel’s) intent,” he said. “Our kid was not wandering around the park. It was not long enough for me to slide my shoes off and put the cleats on that she was gone.”
According to the report, Strickland and another man repeatedly began hitting Patel in the face, but ceased once a crowd began to gather. The two parents told police that they would look away for several seconds at a time before looking back in the direction of where their daughter was. After being told Strickland’s testimony, Patel said he did not “fault” Strickland and declined to press charges for simple battery.
“This is a kind-spirited citizen who did not want to press charges,” Gross said.
An independent witness, Nichole Floyd, 32, who did not observe the entire incident, said she saw Patel walking with the girl asking the girl whether each man was her “daddy.” Floyd told police that she did not perceive the girl to be in any danger when multiple men attacked Patel from behind. Police contacted several other witnesses at the scene, but reports were either conflicting or hearsay.
After being updated on the testimony of Patel and Floyd and told that charges would be dropped, Strickland told an officer that “you must not be a parent or you would be arresting him,” the report said. Strickland added that “in Lakeland, you can kidnap a child and get away with it.”
In the report, Strickland told police that it was suspicious that Patel would be walking toward the playground because everyone at the playground was black and that he and his daughter are white. At the request of the city of Lakeland, Patel was issued a trespass warning.
Strickland told The Ledger on Monday that he would have preferred Patel take his daughter to a concession stand or some place with a speaker where he could have been called. Kaydence, he said, is safe and unfazed by the incident. Strickland said he doesn’t regret the actions that he took.
“At the time, all we saw was him walking toward the parking lot with my daughter,” Strickland said.
Following the incident, police said pictures of Patel began surfacing on Facebook with links to his page, his work address and the notion that he was a predator. Strickland said he is not an advocate of the malicious posts. After clearing the air, Gross said many of the posts have been deleted.
“People have to be cautious of what they share and say,” Gross said. “If you want to know what really happened, call us.”
FOLLOWUP FROM WP:
According to WFLA, other media outlets and police, family members and friends went on social media and shared the man’s photo, his Facebook page and his place of business, “calling him a child predator,” WFLA said.
Police, however, called him a “good Samaritan” in their statement. “It is understandable how parents can possibly be upset in a situation involving a lost child,” the statement said. “However, this incident truly involved a good Samaritan trying to assist a lost child finding” her parents.
“Accounts of this incident have circulated on social media with false information and speculation. Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held [liable].”
Incident at Southwest Sports Complex.On June 24, at approximately 3:35 p.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded…
Posted by LakelandPD on Sunday, June 25, 2017
One Facebook user responded: “I was one of those who shared post thinking it was helpful, now I feel awful that it clearly was not! Definitely teaches me to double check sources before spreading!”
“Now this man’s face is all over the internet,” said another commenter on the police department’s Facebook page. ” … The assumptions that were made can ruin this guys life. Unbelievable.”
The good Samaritan told several local outlets that he has now left town with his family for their safety. He says he will not press charges against the father.
The father made no apologies for his actions but told The Post, “All that matters is that my daughter is home safely.”
|The offending post, from the media|
|Apparently Austin Strickland sticks to his guns...|
|This is why you should ALWAYS double check things before sharing stupid crap on FB, people.|