A day of selling sweet treats outside a grocery store in North San Diego turned sour for a group of Girl Scouts after an unknown suspect allegedly stole money from the children and took off running.
The theft happened at the Albertson’s grocery store located at 1570 W. Valley Pkwy. in Escondido around 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Girl Scouts Zoe and Gracie Fullerton had set up a table outside the store with their mother, Erin, to sell cookies.
Suddenly, they saw a man between 19 and 22 years old run out of store and steal about $45 in cash from their donation jar, laughing the whole time.
That money, Erin said, was supposed to go toward the Girl Scout program “Operation Thin Mint” that originated in San Diego County in 2002, designed to provide cookies and support to U.S. troops deployed overseas in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa.
“Not only did they rob the Girl Scouts, they robbed the soldiers, too,” Erin said.
Spurred by anger, Erin started chasing the man and yelled for others to catch him.
He fled into a black, compact vehicle with three others waiting inside. As he tried to escape, Erin said she reached into the back window to try to grab the money or stop him, but she was knocked down as the vehicle moved away.
Another driver pulled in front of the suspect's car to block him in, but the suspect backed out and got away. Witnesses were able to write down the license plate number and report it to police.
Word spread quickly about the incident inside the store, and employees who saw the upset and tearful Girl Scouts decided to give the Fullertons a little sweetness of their own.
They took up a collection for the girls.
"A lot of people really restored our faith in humanity," Erin said. "They gave us a lot of money to more than make up for what was stolen."
With that push of encouragement, Gracie and Zoe decided to triumph and sell more cookies than ever Sunday.
"Hopefully someone is watching the news that recognizes that license plate and brings these guys to justice because what they did was just so wrong on so many levels," said Erin.
Thefts like this are nothing new to the Girls Scouts.
This is the third theft that Girl Scout mother Patricia Portlock has heard of this year. She and her daughters began selling cookies Saturday at the same Albertson's after the Fullertons had left.
"If the cookies get stolen or the money gets stolen, then that troop has to still pay for these cookies. We're still responsible for them," said Portlock.
She has become cautious and constantly watches their surroundings to prevent people from grabbing her daughter's cash.
Escondido Police will continue investigating Saturday's petty theft.