Two Florida girls were rescued from a kidnapping in progress when alert churchgoers foiled the plot after one of the girls mouthed, “help me, this is not my dad.”
David Daniels of Brandon was arrested by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies on two counts of false imprisonment of a child and child abuse, Fox 13 reported.
The two girls, both under 12 years old, had just exited the Cherry’s Bar and Grill in FishHawk’s park square when 37-year-old Daniels approached them and said he would walk them home.
Daniels allegedly struck one of the girls over the head multiple times as he followed them, at which point they got on their bikes and headed to a nearby church. Daniels caught up with them and entered the church pretending to be their father, sheriff’s deputies said.
(Video: Fox 13 Tampa Bay)
“I saw two children on their bicycles and a male adult behind them,” said a woman who was outside the church and then entered behind them when she felt something was troubling about their behavior.
“One of the little girls was mouthing to me, ‘Please help me, this is not my dad,’” said the woman, who elected to remain anonymous.
Daniels appeared to the woman to have one of the girls in a headlock and was talking firmly in her ear.
“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 told the outlet.
She played along as other churchgoers who had been alerted by the woman engaged Daniels in conversation while she sneaked away to call 911.
The ruse became more obvious as the conversations continued.
“I engaged in conversation with him,” she said. “I said, ‘Oh that’s nice, where did you move here from?’ He said, ‘Oh, I am not really sure.’”
Deputies found Daniels walking back to the downtown area and arrested him.
“I don’t want any recognition for this,” said the woman. “I don’t want to be a hero. I just did what I hope anybody would do for my own kids.”
Deputies reported that the girls were certain they were being kidnapped. The grateful mothers of the two hope that others will see the remarkability that her children are home with her and will likewise be as situationally aware as the churchgoers were.
“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,” said the anonymous woman. “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.”
Daniels is currently being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on a $104,000 bond.
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