SAVANNAH, Tenn. (WKRN) — Shoppers at the Savannah Walmart thought they were witnessing a kidnapping in progress Sunday saying they saw a man hitting and slapping a little girl in the face.
It happened around 12:30 p.m., and a number of Good Samaritans are seen on camera intervening.
Bo Jones told sister station News 2 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 ragdoll, 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.
That’s when he witnessed 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 wasn’t going to let the abuse continue and started recording. Video shows Cornwall pulling the six-year-old little girl barefoot around the parking lot.
“This boy just slapped this baby, snatched her up by her arms, slapping her in the face,” you hear Jones say in the video, which Cornwall denies.
The responding officer spoke to several witnesses who corroborated the story, one saying he 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 said.
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.”
Jones said it was a group effort and hopes the little girl is safe now.
“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.
Police say the six-year-old victim is Cornwall’s niece. He was booked on child abuse and neglect charges.