A Florida mother thwarted a Dollar Store customer's attempted kidnapping of her daughter in broad daylight on Tuesday.
Craig Bonello finished his perusal of a Dollar Store in Hernando, Fla., by approaching a 13-year-old girl from behind and grabbing her, according to Citrus County law enforcement. The incident was captured on the store's surveillance footage, which shows a man race for the exit with the girl in his arms with mother chasing him down and grabbing her daughter.
The mother and would-be kidnapper engaged in a violent tug-of-war, with the mother reclaiming her daughter and the attacker dashing out the door. The store manager, who had already called 911, quickly followed and, spotting an off-duty police officer he knew, shouted that the man was fleeing an attempted kidnapping.
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Jonathan Behnen, who was stopping by for supplies on his way back from court, swiftly arrested Mr. Bonello.
"In my 10 years on the road I have never seen anything like this," Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Craig Callahan told Channel 8 News at the scene. “He truly intended to abduct this child right in front of everyone in the store.”
The mother and daughter are "shaken up" but are receiving support from a victims group at their local sheriff's office.
"We’re very fortunate that the mother had the motherly instinct and did what she did," Sergeant Callahan said. "She may have saved her daughter’s life."
In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received 460,699 reports of missing children in 2015, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), though some reports refer to updates or represent a single child running away several times. Nationally, a child is reported missing about once every 40 seconds.
NCMEC has begun partnering with tech companies such as Facebook and Uber to try and "leverage social media to force media markets to pay attention," NCMEC Director Gavin Portnoy told the Christian Science Monitor's Jessica Mendoza. Uber provides updated information about missing children to drivers, and Facebook is now including Amber alerts in its news feeds.
"There was a time in the '80s when, if a kid goes missing, it's front-page news, no matter where it is," Mr. Portnoy told the Monitor, explaining that news coverage of missing children now risks becoming buried among people's other news updates.
Parents should also have a plan for those "crucial hours" after a child goes missing, FBI Supervising Special Agent James Lewis told CBS Miami. There, too, they can be aided by technology, as the FBI's Child ID App offers a way for parents to continuously collect and update their child's key information that can be quickly sent to law enforcement if necessary.
Such technology and the work of NCMEC is designed to help parents and law enforcement to work as partners to resolve more missing child cases as quickly as Tuesday's Dollar Store incident.
"This was a chaotic scene with a lot at stake," Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Grant told News Channel 8 from the scene. "Thank goodness the girl’s mother jumped into action to prevent this man from kidnapping her daughter. And, thank goodness Dep. Behnen used his training and experience to stop this man from escaping."