KAPOLEI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police are investigating a robbery at Teddy's Bigger Burgers in Kapolei.
The incident happened just before closing Wednesday, when a man in a mask carrying what appeared to be a gun entered through a side door.
The eatery's five teenage employees were ordered into a walk-in freezer, and the robber made off with about $1,400, the employees told police.
"I thought I was gonna die," said 17-year-old employee Jade Huseby. "Either I was going to die or I was going to witness one of my coworkers being shot -- something happening. I just didn't want to see any of that. Oh my God, it was scary,"
No one was hurt in the incident, but Huseby's mother thinks the employees may have been targeted because they looked like "easy prey."
Of the five employees working at the time, the oldest was 18.
"I don't think it was a coincidence," said Huseby's mother, Amy Sokolosky Richmond. "I think it was planned. I think someone had been watching. Someone knew."
Huseby says she had just turned off the restaurant's "open" sign when the masked man walked in through an unlocked side door.
She said d ropped the dust pan and broom she was cleaning with when she realized he had what appeared to be a gun.
"It wasn't just a regular gun. It was huge -- like big, like an assault rifle. I automatically froze. It was like OK, is this real? Is this a joke?" she said.
Huseby said she's still not sure if it was a real gun.
Her fellow co-workers all had the same confused reaction, until the man grabbed Huseby and started pushing her toward the restaurant's walk-in freezer.
"When he put his hands on me, that's when I knew this was real. Something is going to happen," she said.
The Campbell High School senior says he tried to lock her and the other teens in the walk-in freezer with a phone cord.
"I tried calling 911 from the freezer but there's no service. I texted my mom, 'Mom, I love you' but it didn't even go through. It failed," she said.
By the time the teens managed to free themselves, the suspect had cleared out two registers and a safe and he was taking off through the bushes.
"Everything flashed before my eyes and I was so shaky. I could not stop shaking -- and it wasn't just because I was in the freezer," Huseby said.
Richmond was horrified to hear what happened to her daughter.
"Hearing her say that she actually texted that while she was in the freezer makes me think she really thought she was going to die," she said. "She told me she said a prayer in there and she thought her life was over. Knowing those were going to be her last words to me freaks me out."
Teddy's Bigger Burgers did not immediately return a call for comment.
Richmond said that she thinks the business should re-evaluate having so many young employees on at night.
"If it was my business I personally wouldn't want five 17-year-olds working by themselves at night. I'm responsible for them. I need to make sure they're safe," she said.
Huseby suspects the robber knew his way around the store because he entered through a side door rather than coming into the restaurant from the parking lot. She says he also guided her directly to the freezer.
Plus, he showed up while they were counting cash during closing.