A brazen thief stole money from a 10-year-old Camp Fire girl as she sold candy outside a north Spokane grocery store this week.
“It happened in the blink of an eye,” said Penny Bryngelson, who was with her daughter, Rochelle, when the lanky stranger targeted the Camp Fire USA fundraiser outside the Safeway on Newport Highway. “He just came out of nowhere. I didn’t even see him until it was too late.”
The thief escaped with more than $200 and police are looking for him.
The mother and daughter were just about finished when a man rushed at them about 8 p.m. and made off with an envelope containing $220.
The girl’s mom and other witnesses chased after the man, but he fled in a car waiting outside the store.
“I was mad,” Rochelle said. “The guy wasn’t scary, but I was just upset.”
Several witnesses and employees donated money to the girl to make up for what was stolen, though she would have gotten credit for the sales anyway. One man donated $100.
“It makes me feel really good,” her mom said. “Like I told my daughter, it made me realize not everybody out there is bad. Not everybody is out to get you.”
The store managers called 911, and police are reviewing security footage.
Rochelle was shaken but still set on pursuing her goal of raising money to go to Camp Sweyolakan in Idaho, her mom said. They were back at it after taking Wednesday off.
“She’s determined that she’s going to keep selling, even though it’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” she said.
Rochelle said she’s not going to stop selling candy “because I will earn my way to camp.”
“I’m not going to let him stop me,” she said.
Witnesses described the man as white and about 18 to 21 years old, with brownish or sandy blond hair that’s curly in back. He was wearing blue skinny jeans and a white baseball cap with black lettering. He took off in a brown, four-door Honda Accord.
Penny Bryngelson thanked the store employees who stepped in to help.
“They were really helpful and they did a lot for us,” she said. “They were really awesome about it.”
Maggie Crabtree, executive director of Camp Fire USA Inland Northwest Council, immediately began warning others who are selling candy and reminding them of safety tips. She also notified Girl Scouts officials because they start selling cookies soon.
Crabtree said this is the first time a Camp Fire member in the region has been stolen from that she’s aware of.
“We’re counting our lucky stars that no one was hurt,” Crabtree said. “It was not something you ever want to have a kid experience. Obviously it’s a pretty big shock to all of us, but with the economy and everything else, there are desperate people.”