Farmville police provide detail about ‘cultural misunderstanding’

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

FARMVILLE – Farmville police say while last week’s incident near Centra Health involved a ‘cultural misunderstanding’, that played no part in what charges were brought.

On Thursday, March 23, Farmville officers arrested and charged 59-year-old Fahd Saab with assault and battery. Saab had lifted up a boy, picking him off the ground. The boy got free soon after. 

“In this instance, a person originally from another country, where their customs and traditions are different than ours, picked up a child in the presence of the child’s parent and other family members in an effort to show affection and respect,” said Farmville Police Public Information Officer Sam Bowles in a statement. “While perhaps commonplace in other cultures for a stranger to pick up or hug someone else’s children, it is frightening and unacceptable to us, and potentially illegal.” 

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Saab had fled the scene, at which point warnings went out to the surrounding counties and jurisdictions, asking for help in tracking down a man in a khaki coat, driving a medical transport van. Farmville Police officials say when they were able to identify and get in touch with the suspect, he returned as requested. It was Saab’s actions that caused the charges to be filed, Bowles said in the statement. He was not charged with attempted abduction because the department’s investigation showed this wasn’t an attempt to kidnap, just a misunderstanding. 

“To be clear, while the misunderstanding was the primary cause of the incident, it was not a factor in determining the appropriate level of criminal charges,” Bowles said in the statement. “Criminal charges will always be dependent upon whether the statutory elements of a particular crime have occurred. For this incident, those elements fit the crime of assault and battery.”

Some information is delayed, Farmville police say

Bowles also explained that in cases like this, the department can’t always provide all of the available information at the time. The reason is that if there’s an open investigation, what news is and isn’t released could affect the results. 

“Keeping our citizens safe is our primary goal as an agency,” Bowles said in the statement. “As we attempt to balance victim privacy with the public’s need to know, as well as being careful not to jeopardize a successful prosecution, we are often unable to reveal every detail concerning an investigation.” 

Within three hours of fleeing the scene, Saab was taken into custody and charged, before being released to family. His scheduled court hearing for Wednesday, March 29 was continued and he’ll now go before a judge on June 7, facing the one assault charge. A look at Saab’s record shows only one other incident, and it’s a minor one, from earlier this year. In January, he received a speeding ticket in Cumberland County for going 19 mph over the posted speed limit.