A woman in West Virginia who gained national attention after she told police she pulled a gun on a man who was allegedly trying to kidnap her 5-year-old daughter at the mall has now recanted her story, with a witness telling police that the situation may have been a “cultural misunderstanding.”
The woman was with her daughter in an Old Navy store at Huntington Mall in Barboursville, W.Va. when a Middle Eastern man approached them, she alleged on Monday. After pointing a firearm at the man, she called 911 and mall security, who arrested the suspect, according to Fox 8 Cleveland.
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At the time, the unidentified woman was hailed by many as a hero, and even drew the attention of National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who praised her on Twitter.
Lawfully armed mother stops a man trying to abduct her daughter at the mall. Another reason why mamas like me support #2A.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) April 2, 2019
The man, Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, an engineer from Egypt, was arraigned Monday night in Cabell County Magistrate Court on a felony charge of an attempted abduction and held in jail. The woman’s complaint accused Zayan of grabbing her daughter by the hair and attempting to pull her away, only to release her at gunpoint, according to WSAZ.
But on Tuesday, the mom took the story back, admitting she fabricated parts of it. Now, police are saying the altercation was a “cultural misunderstanding,” and that Zayan was affectionately patting the little girl on the head. Though the charges have not been dropped, Zayan was released on reduced bond — the original was $200,000 — and still faces a battery charge.
The Barboursville Police Department released a statement on Tuesday confirming that both the mom and her daughter claim an attempted abduction was taking place. “Based on the statement of the female witness and the child victim, the male suspect was placed under arrest,” the police said.
But upon further investigation, including a review of video surveillance footage, investigators started to identify inconsistencies. They asked the mom to come in again and tell her story, and she did, repeating her original tale. After she was called in to tell her story a third time, it reportedly started to fall apart.
“Female witness (mother of the child) eventually told detectives that she might have misjudged the suspect’s actions, overreacted to the uninvited touching of her daughter and misinterpreted the intentions of the male suspect,” the police statement reads.
A witness who had originally spoken to police was also revisited, and admitted “the more she thought about it, the more she realized it might have been a cultural misunderstanding and that the suspect might have just been patting her daughter on the head and smiling.”
As expected, people on social media have strong reactions to how the story was unfolded.
— Todd (@artist_tao) April 3, 2019
So this turned out to be a big hoax. Mom isn’t charged yet last I heard, but the man whose life she ruined still is. Expect a full write-up tomorrow. https://t.co/ZmJjgFS8Eh
— Em Carpenter, Justician (@wvEsquiress) April 3, 2019
In my small town yesterday, an Egyptian man patted a 5yr old child on the head at the mall. Mom pulls a GUN & he’s now in jail for attempted kidnapping. Today, she admits that she lied. Had he been white, this wouldn’t have happened. Please share this! 🙏https://t.co/2O4OuB05Ie
— April Edwards (@AprilEdwardss) April 2, 2019
One Facebook commenter accused the woman of “prejudice,” while another backed her up.
“He should have never put his hands on someone’s child,” read a comment. “There is no reason for that at all.”
“They’re both in the wrong. He shouldn’t have put his hands on the girl to begin with and the mother shouldn’t have pulled the gun,” wrote another Facebook commenter.
“Well, it’s hard not to overreact when it comes to our children, but it being in a mall I would not have been so quick to pull my gun,” added another. “She could have easily ruined this man’s life and taken it for that matter had she pulled the trigger. Also, do not put your hands on other children. If it’s to save a life or help then OK. Just use your brain.”
Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to the Barboursville Police Department for an update.
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