BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) — Deputies in Hillsborough County say members of a church in the FishHawk Ranch community helped stop an attempted abduction over the weekend when they called 911, leading to a man’s arrest.
The sheriff’s office says two young girls, both under the age of 12, were leaving a restaurant in the park square area just after 6 p.m. on Sunday when a man started following them and insisted he would “supervise” their walk home. The man was later identified as 37-year-old David Daniels, according to the sheriff’s office.
“He did not know these children and these children definitely did not know him,” said Jessica Lang with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
She says Daniels pursued the girls out of the restaurant.
“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 girls had bikes and rode them to a nearby church.
“Thankfully these children stuck together and rode their bikes to a nearby church and asked an adult for help,” said Lang.
According to Lang, Daniels followed the girls all of the way to the church and even went inside, claiming the girls were his. He then placed one of the girls in a headlock, deputies say.
At some point, authorities say the girls managed to mouth the words “help me” to adults in the church, who then stepped in to help.
“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.”
When the adults called 911, deputies quickly responded and say they found Daniels a short distance from the church.
Daniels was arrested and is now charged with child abuse and false imprisonment on a child. He is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail with a $104,000 bond.