HERNANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A mother wrestled her own daughter from the arms of a would-be kidnapper inside a Citrus County dollar store this morning, moments before an off-duty deputy arrested the fleeing suspect at gunpoint, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.
It all started just before noon at the Dollar General in Hernando. Deputies say a man, whom they later identified as Craig Bonello, tried to snatch a 13-year-old girl who was shopping with her mother. Deputies say he ran towards the exit with the girl in his arms, but the teen's mother caught up and a "tug of war" ensued.
According to the Sheriff's Office, 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. He said Bonello hesitated, but eventually he 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, 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.
"The intentions of Bonello as of yet are not known," a sheriff's office spokesperson stated. "Detectives will be investigating the incident thoroughly and will be charging Bonello in the near future."
Deputies said the mother and her daughter were uninjured, although both very rattled.
"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."
Information taken from WTVT-TV FOX13News.com.