‘I was sent to rob you’: 19-year-old Tacoma barista robbed in drive-through

TACOMA, Wash. — A barista working the Café Elite coffee stand on 74th Street in Tacoma was robbed at gunpoint.

The armed robbery happened just before 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The thief got away with cash and the 19-year-old barista’s wallet.

Owners told KIRO 7, it’s the second time this year that one of their baristas was held up and robbed.

The other incident happened at one of the other twenty-one Café Elite coffee stands in the South Sound area.

KIRO 7 talked with the victim’s mom off camera who said the man pulled up, ordered coffee, and asked how her daughter’s day was.

In security footage, what looks like a gun can be seen in the man’s right hand just before he gets out of his car and crawls through the drive-thru window.

At some point, the victim’s mom said, the man told her daughter “I was sent to rob you, do what I say, and I won’t hurt you.”

The barista wasn’t physically hurt during the robbery but is still very shaken up.

“Trying to deal with the emotional outcomes afterwards that’s a whole different story. We have about 150 baristas that work for us. Most of them are women, young women, we just tell them to remain vigilant and give them all the support we can after the fact as well,” said Café Elite’s C.O.O., Tim Irey.

He also said police confirmed the man was in a stolen car.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darren Moss said drive-thru window robberies happen more often than most people think.

The late-night and early-morning shifts are most vulnerable because not a lot of people are around.

He also said safe employees start with a safe building, and security cameras are an easy addition for employers to make.

Café Elite has cameras capturing almost every angle.

“We have cameras trained on license plates, cameras trained on faces for the way cars roll up,” said Irey.

Sgt. Moss said any time a drive-thru worker feels unsafe with a customer, immediately shut and lock the window. If that doesn’t happen in time, and a robbery is happening, it’s safest to comply.

“For the employees themselves, the most important thing in that business is yourself,” said Sgt. Moss. “Is he someone just trying to get the money or is he someone that’s going to get upset or harm you.”

While cameras are an easy fix, raising or having a higher drive-thru window that’s harder to get in can also be a deterrent.

Sgt. Moss added, that going completely cashless is also a good option to keep drive-thru workers from becoming victims.

“I’m pretty sure they’re not going in these coffee stands to steal coffee or creamer so you take away the thing they’re looking for make yourself less of a target,” said Sgt. Moss.

Café Elite’s owner also said they cover any therapy or counseling costs for employees who were robbed or had something similar happen to them while at work.

If you know who the man in the security footage is, call Tacoma PD at 253-287-4455.

You can also leave an anonymous tip at https://www.cityoftacoma.org/government/city_departments/police/confidential_tip.