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Mom, Off-Duty Deputy Thwart Wild Abduction of 13-Year-Old Girl in Florida

The incident was caught on a shocking video that was posted to the sheriff's office's Facebook page.

A Florida mother is being praised after she thwarted a kidnapping suspect who allegedly grabbed the woman’s 13-year-old daughter and tried to run out of a store Tuesday, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said.

The sheriff’s office was called about the attempted abduction at a Dollar General store in Hernando at 11:42 a.m., but an off-duty sheriff’s deputy was outside the business and arrested Craig Bonello as he tried to flee in a vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.

Bonello, 30, of Hernando, allegedly grabbed the teen and tried to drag her out of the store, but the girl’s mother caught up to him and freed her after a "tug of war," the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The incident was caught on a shocking video that was posted to the sheriff's office's Facebook page.

"In my 10 years on the road I have never seen anything like this," Sgt. Craig Callahan said in a statement from the sheriff’s office. "He truly intended to abduct this child right in front of everyone in the store."

The off-duty deputy, Jonathan Behnen, was stopping by a Dollar General store after spending the morning in court, and the store manager yelled that the fleeing man had tried to abduct a child, the sheriff’s office said.

Behnen used his patrol car to block Bonello’s vehicle and arrested him, according to the sheriff’s office.

Detectives are still investigating why Bonello allegedly grabbed the girl, the sheriff’s office said. No one was hurt in the incident, the sheriff’s office said.

Image: Suspect Craig Bonello
Abduction suspect Craig Bonello, 30, is seen in this booking photo from an unrelated arrest from February.

Bonello will be charged with one count each of kidnapping and child abuse, the sheriff's office said.

Bonello was most recently arrested for trespassing at an Inverness Walmart store in February, according to sheriff’s office records, and he has several other arrests for misdemeanors since 2009, according to court records. None of the other cases involve abduction, according to court records.

An attorney for Bonello in Tuesday’s arrest was not listed, and a message left at his listed address was not immediately returned.

Tony Bonello, the suspect's uncle, said his nephew has had some problems over the years and needs help.

"It’s just sad that this has happened, because this is not the kid that grew up with my kids,” Tony Bonello, who lives in Vermont, said in a phone interview. "He needs to talk to some psychiatrists and find out what the issue is," Tony Bonello said.

In the February trespassing case, an expert for a competency evaluation was appointed but a hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to court records. An attorney listed as representing Bonello in the trespassing case did not immediately return an email Tuesday evening.

Deputy Jonathan Behnen
Deputy Jonathan BehnenCitrus County Sheriff

"Thank goodness the girl's mother jumped into action to prevent this man from kidnapping her daughter,” sheriff’s office Commander Buddy Grant said in the statement. “And thank goodness Dep. Behnen used his training and experience to stop this man from escaping."

Hernando is a community of around 9,000 people about 30 miles southwest of Ocala.