According to NBC affiliate WFLA-TV, the man found the two year old girl Saturday inside a Lakeland park.
"What they see as an individual with their child walking off, but he was a good Samaritan trying to get that child back to her parents", Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross said. But the dad tells us all he saw was this odd man walking towards this parking lot with his daughter.
After speaking with all parties involved, including witnesses who had seen the man walking with the girl and heard him asking her if passersby were her father, responding law enforcement decided that it had all been a bad mistake on the part of the little girl's family.
The girl's father, Austin Strickland, raced to the man and assaulted him with several punches, thinking that the good samaritan was actually trying to kidnap his daughter. Word quickly spread on the internet and the man's name, workplace, and even pictures of his children were posted online.
"This guy is a father, a local businessman, has two children, was trying to help this child but they turned it completely around", Gross told the station, "And that's not right".
One man grabbed the girl and the other man, who is the child's father punched the man five or six times. He attempted to ask the girl where her parents were and walked with her in hopes she could point them out.
"When I got there, I just swung on him", the father told WFTS.
But when the child's father was alerted by bystanders that his daughter was being led away by a stranger, the well-intentioned act was mistaken for a kidnapping attempt. "What would you do?" the father asked.
According to a police statement, a citizen who was at the game visiting some friends saw the child walking alone and he believed the child to be lost. "I thought he was trying to take my daughter".
When contacted by WFLA, the good Samaritan declined to comment, citing safety concerns and telling reporters he'd left town with his family.
Only one person called the police department "to get the correct information", the police said.
Lakeland police warned people that the Facebook post contained "false information and speculation".
Despite the man's innocence, several posts were published on social media defaming his character.
'Before posting information on matters such as this, we encourage people to identify the source and the validity of such claims before sharing them'.