A woman was able to escape from a frightening situation on Christmas Eve thanks to the quick thinking of McDonald’s employees.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office shared an account of the dramatic incident on Facebook on Friday, detailing how the woman alerted staff at the McDonald’s in Lodi, California, that she needed help after the man she was traveling with allegedly threatened her life.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the woman entered the McDonald’s restaurant and told an employee at the counter to call 911, police said. She also provided the license plate of the car she was traveling in and asked them to hide her.
“After the woman used the restroom, she attempted to place an order at the counter, but the suspect, Eduardo Valenzuela, was nearby and demanded she use the drive-thru,” the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post:
When the woman entered the drive-thru, she mouthed “help me” to an employee. An unidentified McDonald’s worker told CBS13 that the restaurant’s manager told employees to hold up the drive-thru line so that the police had time to get to the scene.
“It was one of those fight-or-flight kind of things,” the McDonald’s employee said.
The restaurant is a participant in the “Safe Place” initiative, which provides training to employees in designated locations to assist vulnerable people in need of immediate help and safety.
“They just took over and they didn’t hesitate,” the McDonald’s employee added about her co-workers.
When deputies arrived, they instructed the victim, who was driving, to pull over. Valenzuela was in the passenger seat.
The woman told police Valenzuela had been violent with her in the past and had ordered her to drive him to visit his family on Christmas Eve. She said he had threatened her life and that he would use a firearm.
A stolen firearm was located in the trunk of the vehicle.
Valenzuela faces charges of making criminal threats, possessing stolen property and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.