Good Samaritan Beaten Up After Trying to Help Lost Toddler Find Her Parents

Toddler girl holding hands with her father

Children are notorious for wandering away from their parents, which makes the swift actions of good-hearted strangers such a godsend to moms and dads. But when someone helps your kid out of a dangerous situation, it should end in a handshake or "Thank you," and not a fist to the face. Two Florida parents attacked a Good Samaritan trying to help their lost toddler locate them, and what's even more disturbing is that their harassment and disdain for this kind stranger continued online -- even after they knew he was innocent.


"I thought he was trying to take my daughter," the toddler's dad told WFLA News Channel 8. "I saw this man with my daughter in his hands walking toward the parking lot. What would you do? I wanted to kill him!"

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Obviously, it's VERY understandable how emotional the parents of the 2-year-old girl must have felt after she got separated from them at Southwest Sports Complex in Lakeland, Florida, on June 24. Just the thought of a toddler -- your toddler -- walking around a crowded place alone is enough to make any parents leap into Hulk mode, especially if they see their kid with a stranger they assume to be a kidnapper.

But that's the funny thing about appearances and assumptions, as Utpal Patel, the man the unnamed parents thought was a threat to their child, was, in fact, one of the good guys. He was actively helping the toddler search for her parents, when the girl's dad came up with three of his buddies and struck the Good Samaritan "five or six times." As NBC News reports, the girl's mom admitted she hit the man too.

The Lakeland Police Department investigated the incident and found Patel to be a do-gooder with no criminal history.

"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 Sergeant Gary Gross tells WFLA.

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Given the rarity of strangers abducting children, and the fact that police cleared Utpal Patel of any wrongdoing, you'd think these parents would woosah, thank the man, and move on with life, right?


Shamefully, this father and mother, together with their family, also felt the need to share personal information about Patel on social media -- from his personal Facebook page down to his photo and place of business -- and refer to him as a "child predator."

"This guy is a father, a local businessman, has two children, was trying to help this child but they turned it completely around," Sergeant Gross reveals to WFLA. 

Since the incident, Patel has reportedly left town in fear for his family's well-being, and yet, he's chosen not to press charges against the very family he tried to help.

"My whole life is tragic now," Patel tells WFLA in a recent interview. "Everybody is looking at me funny and my respect is endangered now because nobody will trust me. My life is tarnished."

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Hopefully, this incident won't discourage other do-gooders from taking action when they see a child in a dangerous situation. But Lakeland Police's Gary Gross also wants what happened to be a reminder about how important it is to think about the consequences of things we post online.

He tells WFLA:

"Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held libel. Be careful about what you post on social media so as not to victimize an innocent person."

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