Crime-fighting K9 bites, catches ATM robbery suspects

Hernando County Sheriff's Deputy K9 Justice. Hernando Sheriff's Office photo

SPRING HILL, Fla — Who says “there is never a cop around when you need one?”

Just minutes after midnight on Dec. 12, Joseph Hildreth, visited an ATM at the Suncoast Credit Union located at 4176 Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill. After withdrawing his cash, Hildreth began walking to his car.

As Hildreth approached his car, he saw three males approaching him from behind a neighboring business. As they approached, Hildreth saw them placing handkerchiefs over their faces. Before he was able to reach his car, one of the males approached him and said, “Give me your money and you won’t get hurt.”

Hildreth attempted to get away but was hit by the suspect, who continued to demand the money. Hildreth fought back, only to be attacked by all three suspects. In just seconds, Hildreth was on the ground, being beaten.

Hernando County Sheriff’s Office K9 Corporal Stephen Miller witnessed the attack from across the street and went to help Hildreth. All three suspects fled the scene, two in one direction, one in another.

Corporal Miller immediately deployed K9 “Justice”. Justice pursued the two suspects who had run behind the building.

With Justice out of his sight and the third suspect fleeing in another direction, Corporal called Justice back. Justice returned and was deployed to go after the third suspect.

Christopher Hibbert was taken into custody by K9 Justice. Hibbert was transported by Hernando County Fire/Rescue to Oak Hill Hospital where he was treated for the canine bite.

Further investigation revealed additional suspects involved in the robbery were located at 16215 Fullington Road in Brooksville. Patrol units responded to the address, detained three suspects, and transported them to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning.

The suspects are identified as Brandy Faulkner, Corey Rodriguez, and Gabriel Varhaul. A fourth suspect, Derek O’Brien, responded to the Sheriff’s Office on his own for questioning. O’Brien allegedly admitted his involvement in the Robbery.

O’Brien and Varhaul had also received canine bites from K9 Justice. They told deputies when they dove in their getaway car, K9 Justice dove in right behind them, biting them both before hearing his handler call him back.

Both O’Brien and Varhaul were medically cleared by Hernando County Fire/Rescue before being transported to the Hernando County Detention Center. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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