SAVANNAH, Tenn. (WKRN) — Shoppers at a Walmart in Tennessee thought they were witnessing a kidnapping in progress Sunday, saying they saw a man hitting and slapping a little girl in the face.
At about 12:30 p.m., a number of good Samaritans were seen on camera intervening at the Savannah store.
Bo Jones told WFXR’s sister station, WKRN, that he first noticed the man, later identified as Joseph Cornwall, aggressively pulling the little girl around the store.
“The whole time coming out of the store it was like he was dragging her around like a rag doll, just by her arms. It was like he was pulling her arms out of the socket,” Jones explained, saying they followed him out of the store.
He then saw the man spank the girl before hitting her across the face multiple times.
“I would say at least four times. Two separate, like two separate occasions, like a ‘pop, pop’ and then a pause and then another couple of slaps,” he said.
Jones started recording. Video shows Cornwall pulling the 6-year-old girl barefoot around the parking lot.
“This boy just slapped this baby, snatched her up by her arms, slapping her in the face,” Jones can be heard saying in the video.
The responding officer spoke to several witnesses who corroborated the story, one saying the suspect put the little girl in a chokehold.
“The good Samaritans called. They didn’t attempt to be a vigilante and take justice into their own hands. They did the right thing. They became really good witnesses, which ultimately is the best thing that we can ask for from a concerned citizen or a civilian,” Savannah Police Chief Michael Pitts told WKRN.
The chief praised the witnesses who worked together to assure Cornwall was caught.
“They were giving us good information. They got tag numbers, they got descriptions. They had the gentleman on video, so even had the gentleman left and our detectives had to come in and do an investigation after the fact, we had good solid evidence. We had good solid leads to move forward to at that time. I really can’t commend them enough,” he said.
Jones said it was a group effort and hopes the girl is safe.
“I just wanted to protect the girl, you know? I did what anybody else in this town would have done. There’s a lot of good people here, and if anyone else would have been in my situation, they would have done the same thing,” said Jones.
Cornwall, who has denied the allegations, was booked on child abuse and neglect charges. Police said the 6-year-old is his niece.