"One of the little girls was mouthing to me, 'Please help me, this is not my dad.'"
A quick-thinking Florida mom saved two little girls from an abduction when she realized their "dad"... was not their dad.
The frightening ordeal took place in FishHawk's park square on Sunday, when the two friends, both under 12, left Cherry's Bar and Grill restaurant around 6 PM — and a strange man reportedly approached to tell them he was going to "supervise" their walk home.
"He did not know these children and these children definitely did not know him," Jessica Lang of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told WFLA.
Deputies said the man began following them, and even hit one of the girls several times in the head.
The friends, who were riding bikes, had the cognizance to make a beeline for a nearby church.
"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. "Thankfully these children stuck together and rode their bikes to a nearby church and asked an adult for help."
But even after going inside, the man followed them — and even tried to claim they were his children.
Luckily, another mother at the church knew something was wrong.
"I saw two children on their bicycles and a male adult behind them," the heroic woman — who did not want to be identified — told Fox7.
As she approached, she said one of the little girls began silently mouthing to her: "Please help me, this is not my dad."
"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 said.
But instead of reacting and possibly escalating the situation, the quick-thinking mom played along, welcoming the "family" into the church... until she had the chance to call 911.
"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.'"
Hillsborough County deputies quickly responded to the scene, and found the suspect, 37-year-old David Daniels, a short distance from the church, walking back towards downtown.
He was arrested on two counts each of false imprisonment of a child, and child abuse. He is being held on $104,000 bond.
Both girls told deputies afterwards they believed they were being kidnapped.
"I don't want any recognition for this," the woman told Fox7 off-camera, choking up. "I don't want to be a hero. I just did what I hope anybody would do for my own kids."
"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," she added. "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."
But according to Lang — the mom is a hero.
"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."