US man who helped lost toddler mistaken for kidnapper

A Florida man had to leave town in fear for his safety after people on social media misidentified him as a kidnapper when he was helping a lost toddler find her parents.

The man was also punched by the child's father, who told local media he "thought he was trying to take my daughter," the Washington Post reports. The man was left with a cut and swollen face.

Lakeland Police posted a message on Facebook on Monday explaining the incident in which the two-year-old girl had gotten lost at a local softball game.

"A citizen who was at the game visiting a few friends noticed the young girl wandering by herself and believed that she was lost," the police department said.

"The citizen attempted to ask the girl where her parents were and walked with her in hopes she could point them out.

"The parents were alerted by bystanders that the citizen was walking towards a playground and feared that the citizen was attempting to kidnap the child. This was not the case."

No crime was committed and the man does not have a criminal history, the police department said.

"Accounts of this incident have circulated on social media with false information and speculation."

As a result, the man's reputation was smeared and he had to leave town for fear of his safety.

"It's understandable how parents can possibly be upset in a situation involving a lost child. However, this incident truly involved a good Samaritan trying to assist a lost child finding their parents," Lakeland police said in the Facebook post.

One of the most popular comments on the post was from the man's neighbour, James Jordan.

"I was particularly interested in the post because this guy lives two houses away from me. I too initially shared the post, but immediately thought to myself - what if it's not true?

"The person I talked to at LPD explained everything to me that they put in this post. It took me all of ten minutes to find out the truth. I immediately took down the post I shared and put up another explaining what happened.

"I then tried to explain to everyone on the original post that he was trying to help, but it didn't matter to them. They were going to ruin this guy's life because they were too stubborn to admit they made a mistake.

"This is what's wrong with society today. People don't take responsibility for their actions.

"I hope everybody has learned from this fiasco and will think twice before posting something online. Or at least take 10 minutes to pick up the phone and call to get the truth."