When Grace DeWitt recalled the robbery of her daughter's and nieces' lemonade stand on Norpoint Way, she said it was like something from a movie.
"We had a customer right behind him, and we're all just kind of in shock," she told The News Tribune on Monday afternoon. "We all just couldn't believe he did it because he, like, did it with a smile on his face."
On Sunday, DeWitt reported to the Tacoma Police Department that a young man reached behind the stand's cash register and stole about $80 late that afternoon.
The stand is a ready-to-assemble, white counter space with nine green compartments and a yellow-and-white-striped overhang that says, "Lemonade." It was a Christmas gift for the four girls running it: 13-year-old Leah Sleeper, 10-year-old Zaylani Juarez and 6-year-olds Layla DeWitt and Gabriela Sleeper. Sunday was only the second time they had used their gift to sell refreshments to neighbors.
According to Grace DeWitt, the suspected robber stopped by once before the robbery and told the girls he forgot to bring cash. When he came back, he asked for a cup of lemonade.
"He said he wanted change for something for 25 cents, and he wanted change for $5," Grace DeWitt said. "Then he was like, 'Oh, I'm going to buy one more thing.'"
Instead of picking out one of the assorted food items laid out on the stand, Dewitt said, the man reached over the counter and grabbed a stack of $5, $10 and $20 bills from the open cash register. The man then ran across the street and entered a blue SUV with three other people, according to Grace Dewitt.
"We were just like in shock," said Zaylani, who is one of Grace DeWitt's nieces. "We weren't prepared for it at all."
According to Tacoma police spokesperson Wendy Haddow, the department has not yet identified a suspect.
In addition to filing a report with the police, Grace DeWitt detailed the incident in a NextDoor post. After the post, she said the girls received overwhelming community support.
"They totally made back their money," she said. "They made enough to buy a snow cone machine, so they're going to have snow cones on Wednesday."
Grace DeWitt and her younger relatives feel some unease about the robbery. On Monday afternoon, as they set up the stand for another session, she took precautions to protect her daughters from being robbed again.
"Sorry, it's gotta be in the yard," said Grace DeWitt after Zaylani asked to move the stand closer to a neighbor's wooden fence. "I know it's hard, but it's gotta be in the yard."
Despite their newly heightened awareness, the girls will continue to sell refreshments throughout the summer. They plan to set up the stand two-to-three times a week until they go back to school.
"Bad things can happen," Leah said. "But sometimes good karma can come back, like people who gave us the money back to be kind. It was really helpful, and now we're back."