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Florida Man Allegedly Followed Two Unknown Girls To Church, Claiming To Be Their Dad
David Matthew Daniels is accused of trying to kidnap two girls he didn't know from a small town outside Tampa. Parishioners at a nearby church stopped the alleged abduction, despite saying the man claimed to be the girls' father.
A Florida man is accused of allegedly following two young girls and trying to kidnap them, all while claiming that he was their father.
David Matthew Daniels, 37, allegedly began following the two children — who are both under the age 12 and attend elementary school — after they left Cherry’s Bar and Grill in FishHawk, a suburb of east of Tampa.
“He did not know these children and these children definitely did not know him,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Public Relations Coordinator Jessica Lang told local outlet WFLA.
She said that Daniels allegedly stalked them as they left the restaurant, claiming he was going to "supervise" their walk home.
“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,” said Lang.
The two girls got on their bicycles to try and flee.
“Thankfully these children stuck together and rode their bikes to a nearby church and asked an adult for help,” Lang told WFLA.
Daniels allegedly followed the girls to the church and claimed that they were his daughters. A parishioner outside the church told police she witnessed him hit one of the girls in the head multiple times and then allegedly place the other girl in a headlock.
She also saw one of the girls mouth the words “Please help me, this is not my dad,” according to WTVT.
That's when they thwarted the alleged kidnapping attempt.
“Members of this church really stepped up to protect children that were not theirs,” Lang said. “They saw that something was wrong and they saved these children.”
The woman outside the church told WTVT that she played along with Daniels — who had his arm around the one girl's neck and was whispering in her ear — to stall him until she could call 911.
“I engaged in conversation with him,” she said, noting that he'd claimed the three had just moved to the area and wanted to help out at the church. “I said, ‘Oh that’s nice, where did you move here from?’”
He couldn't answer. Police found him shortly thereafter, walking back towards the restaurant where he had initially encountered the girls.
The parishioner said she doesn’t want recognition for what she did.
“I don’t want to be a hero,” she said. “I just did what I hope anybody would do for my own kids.”
Daniels was arrested and charged with two counts of child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment of a child. He is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail with a $104,000 bond. Oxygen.com has requested an arrest report from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s not clear if he has a lawyer.