Police: Gold medalist arrested at playground may have been trying to help girl

Updated:

Tyler Phippen (middle)
MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. —

A Maple Valley man who was accused of trying to kidnap a little girl last week was released from jail on Monday.

Police said that Tyler Phippen, a decorated taekwondo athlete, picked up the 5-year-old girl at her apartment complex playground last Wednesday.

Phippen was, police said, a stranger to the girl, but he might have been trying to help, not hurt, her.

The girl may have been stuck in a swing in the Maple Valley Apartments playground, according to police.

The arresting officer wrote that Phippen said he was trying to protect the girl when he picked her up, because he believed that there was no one around to take care of her.

The girl screamed, kicked and hit the man until Phippen put her down.

Police said that they didn’t have enough evidence that Phippen was going to hurt the girl after picking her up.

The arresting officer also wrote that Phippen suffers from "mental problems.” His family denied that.

The King County Sheriff's Office started an internal investigation into the source of that information, and whether the deputy who wrote the report can back it up. The investigation should be completed in a couple of weeks.

Jail records showed that Phippen was released from jail at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. He could still be charged with a misdemeanor once the Maple Valley prosecutor looks at the case.

Phippen’s former coach told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter James Schugel that Phippen was "an outstanding kid."

He won a gold medal in the Pan-Am Junior Championship and made the U.S. Junior Olympic Team.