Barboursville, WV – A West Virginia woman who told police she pulled a gun on an Egyptian man trying to kidnap her daughter changed her story on Tuesday afternoon.
The Barboursville Police Department held a press conference on April 2 to announce that the woman who had made the accusations against 54-year-old Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan said she realized she had misunderstood the interaction.
Police initially arrested the suspect then reviewed video of the incident which was inconsistent with the woman's statement.
The police brought her in for another interview and she made more inconsistent statements.
“The female witness - the mother of the child - eventually told detectives that she might have misjudged the suspect’s actions, overreacted to an uninvited touching of her daughter, and misinterpreted the intentions of the male suspect,” a spokesman for the Barboursville police told reporters.
“Female witness also stated that the more she thought about it, the more she realized that it might have been a cultural misunderstanding, that the suspect might have just been patting her daughter on the head and smiling,” he said.
Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said the incident in question occurred in a department store at the Huntington Mall at about 6:15 p.m. on Monday, WOWK reported.
That’s when a woman called 911 and told the dispatcher that a man tried to abduct her five-year-old daughter.
The mother said the man grabbed her daughter by the hair and wouldn’t let go of her child.
So she pulled out a gun to scare him away and he finally let go of her daughter, the Associated Press reported.
Police said the mother reported the incident to police and mall security immediately after it happened, and mall security and the Barboursville police were able to locate the suspect in the food court.
Zayan was taken into custody by police and booked into the Western Regional jail at 12:55 a.m. on April 2, WOWK reported.
Police said Zayan did not speak any English, and that an Arabic translator was used via phone for his arraignment in Cabell County Magistrate Court.
He was charged with one felony count of attempted abduction, according to the Associated Press.
The magistrate ordered Zayan, who is from Alexandria, Egypt, to turn over his passport and not leave the state of West Virginia, WOWK reported.
He was being held in the jail in lieu of a $200,000 bond.
It was not known if Zayan had retained an attorney to represent him, but police said at the press conference that the prosecutor was already reviewing the case.
Police said the prosecutor would be adjusting the charges and would release Zayan if it were appropriate.
The spokesman for the Barboursville police was quick to point out to reporters that although there may have been no abduction intended, the uninvited touching of another person is considered simple battery.
“And remember, even though there was an overreaction by the mother, it was not completely baseless. There was a touching of the child uninvited,” the police spokesman said.
No decisions have been made regarding any charges against the mother who reported the abduction.
Police said that Huntington Mall is generally a very safe place, and that hysteria about the incident had been ratcheted up by social media.
The mall has a no-gun policy but not all of the entrances are labeled, so the mother didn’t break any laws by carrying her weapon, police said.