Two young girls have avoided an alleged abduction after a man claimed to be their father — but they were able to alert people nearby.
Florida churchgoers helped save two young girls from being abducted after one of the victims mouthed “help me, this is not my dad,” authorities said.
The two girls, both aged under 12, were leaving a restaurant outside Tampa on Sunday night when 37-year-old David Daniels approached them and said he’d “supervise” their walk home, FOX13 reported.
Daniels allegedly started hitting one of the girls over the head multiple times and continued to follow them, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
The girls, who didn’t know Daniels, then jumped on their bikes and rode towards a nearby church to ask for help, the New York Post reported.
Daniels is accused of following the girls into the church and claiming they were his daughters.
At one point, he allegedly put one of the girls in a headlock.
“One of the little girls was mouthing to me, ‘Please help me, this is not my dad,’” a woman, who was inside the church but didn’t want to be named, said.
“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, ‘” she said.
The churchgoers managed to keep engaging with the Daniels until they were able to call emergency services.
Daniels was taken into custody near the church and charged with child abuse and false imprisonment of a child.
He is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail on a US$104,000 bond.
The woman involved spoke out to warn other parents.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
This story was published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission.