Clearwater police have arrested an 18-year-old man wanted after his encounter with a young girl in a Countryside Mall women’s bathroom.
Ricky Blake Thompson, of the Ocala area, told police he accidentally went into the wrong bathroom and the girl saw him through her partially open stall.
According to police, he told them he panicked and tried to put his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming. That's when she fell to the floor.
"It is an exceptionally weird story," Rob Shaw, Clearwater police spokesperson said. "He makes a mistake going in the wrong bathroom and his interaction with the girl. He could've chosen to do any number of things. I don't think I would ever recommend someone putting their hands on a 6-year-old child or anyone for that matter."
Shaw said the good news in all of this is that his detectives have determined that someone was not trying to abduct or harm a girl inside the mall.
"This wasn't an act of evil. He could've handled it differently for sure," Shaw said.
Clearwater Police Department initially sent out an alert to find the man after the girl reported she was attacked Friday night.
The girl's father told ABC Action News through a statement to police that she recently learned "stranger, danger."
The initial report from police was that the unidentified man forced open the door to the girl's stall inside the Macy's women's restroom. He apparently grabbed the victim, pushed her to the floor and tried to cover her mouth with his hand. She screamed, he let go and left the restroom, which is when he was caught on surveillance video. The child's father had been standing outside the restroom nearby.
Many parents told ABC Action News the incident was a reminder to them to keep their kids close.
"I'm very strict about that. I've even gotten in little arguments about it with my sister, basically saying she's fine. But I'm like, no way, this is Florida. Crazy stuff happens here all the time," said parent Emily Rimes.
Another mother also says it's a good reminder for her, and all parents, to talk with you children about 'stranger danger'.
"I warn them about that, to always have them be aware of their surroundings. Make eye contact because I read that deters people from doing things to you or to actually even speak, say good evening sir or ma'am because usually they don't expect things like that," said parent Elizabeth Londono.
The little girl in Friday's incident is OK.
"Our detectives don't have any reason to believe that he was making this up, the girl was not injured traumatically," Shaw said.