Mom, off-duty deputy thwart would-be kidnapping
HERNANDO (FOX 13) - A mother wrestled her own daughter from the arms of a would-be kidnapper inside a Citrus County Dollar General Store Tuesday morning, moments before an off-duty deputy arrested the fleeing suspect at gunpoint.
It all started just before noon at the Dollar General in Hernando. Deputies said a man -- whom they later identified as Craig Bonello -- tried to snatch a 13-year-old girl who was shopping with her mother.
Surveillance video released to deputies by the store shows he tried to run towards the exit with the girl in his arms, but the teen's mother caught up and a "tug of war" ensued.
Bonello, 30, finally let go of the girl and ran out the front door just as an off-duty deputy was getting out of his patrol car to enter the store. The store manager yelled to Deputy Jonathan Behnen, who pulled his car around to block Bonello in the parking lot.
Deputy Behnen pulled out his service weapon and ordered Bonello from his car. Bonello hesitated, but complied and was taken into custody.
"In my 10 years on the road I have never seen anything like this," Sgt. Craig Callahan said at the scene. "He truly intended to abduct this child right in front of everyone in the store."
The sheriff's office said deputies have arrested Bonello several times before, most recently in February for trespassing. His other charges were misdemeanors, except for an aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer back in 2009. He is not a registered sex offender.
WATCH: Mom stops man trying to abduct teen in Dollar General
He now faces charges of kidnapping and child abuse.
"We are very fortunate our deputy was there as quickly as he was. We are very fortunate that the mother had that motherly instinct and did what she did." Sgt. Callahan said. "She may have saved her daughter's life today. I don't exactly know a motive, but I know it wasn't a good one."
Deputies said the mother and her daughter were uninjured, although both very rattled. The victim is being offered counseling services.
"Behnen is a bona fide hero today," said Capt. Ricky Grant, who was also on scene. "If it weren't for him, this guy would have gotten away."