Turns out, he never tried to abduct the girl, he just gave her a hug, which she initiated, before he was assaulted by the girl's grandfather.
The way much of the media described the (ahem) heroic tale yesterday is as follows:
Phoenix police were called to an apartment complex in the neighborhood of 2500 West Camelback Sunday afternoon. Witnesses told police the transient had tried to abduct the 3-year-old -- who was playing in a park with her aunt -- because they saw him dancing in a nearby parking lot before approaching the girl.
The girl's aunt watched the girl start to walk away with the transient. She yelled for the girl to stop as the transient continued on his way.
The aunt, apparently, perceived this as a possible abduction and called police -- but not before telling the rest of the family to gather their torches and pitchforks.
Not happy, the girl's family spent the next half-hour looking for the transient while waiting for police. They found him, and when they did, they roughed him up well enough to cause what police describe as minor injuries.
The narrative written by much of the media was that the hero family tracked down a would-be child abductor terrorizing the streets of Phoenix.
That, as the Phoenix Police Department clarified yesterday, was not the case.
Turns out, the transient was dancing in a parking lot adjacent to the playground where the girl was playing with her aunt, which is weird, but not illegal.
The man wandered toward the park and, when he approached the girl, "The child reached up to the transient as though saying hello or wanting a hug (showing affection). The transient male gave the three year old a hug and began walking away. The child followed for a couple of steps until the aunt stopped her. The transient left the area," Phoenix police say.
Police say, he will not be charged with a crime -- but what about the hotheads who roughed him up? Police say the homeless man didn't want charges pressed.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.