McDonald’s staff at a California franchise have been praised for their quick-thinking after saving a female customer whose life was allegedly in danger.
Police in California’s San Joaquin County said the unnamed woman had entered the Flag City restaurant in Lodi shortly after 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and told an employee at the counter to call 911.
She also asked them to hide her before giving them the license plate of the vehicle she was traveling in, they said.
The woman then went to use the restroom before attempting to place an order at the counter but was stopped from doing so by a male suspect, Eduardo Valenzuela, who had allegedly threatened to kill her.
Officials said Valenzuela instead demanded the woman use the drive-thru to place her order, but while doing so she mouthed “help me” to the staff on duty.
Shortly after, police arrived on the scene and spoke to staff who directed them to the woman who was sat in her vehicle in the drive-thru line.
Golden State Restaurant Group representative Regina Camera told ABC 7 that the manager of the restaurant had employees hold up the drive-thru line so that they could stop the vehicle the woman was traveling in from moving forward while they waited for police to arrive.
Police found the “shaken” woman driving the vehicle while Valenzuela was in the passenger seat, and began inspecting the car when they located a stolen firearm in the trunk.
During the investigation, deputies comforted the woman and discovered that Valenzuela had been violent with her in the past.
On the day the frightening events took place, Valenzuela reportedly told the woman to take him to visit his family and threatened to kill her with a firearm.
Officers said that Valenzuela was arrested and charged with making criminal threats, possessing stolen property, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
According to CNN, the Golden State Restaurant Group, which owns the McDonald’s location where the incident took place, has certified each of its restaurants as a “Safe Place.”
The Safe Place program is a “national youth outreach and prevention program for young people in need of immediate help and safety,” its website says.
The program provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for youth in need and has a network of nearly 20,000 community and business locations nationwide.
They include schools, fire stations, libraries, and businesses, all of which display distinctive yellow and black safe place signs, notifying young people that they can go to these locations in times of crisis to find a secure place to stay and be connected with a youth service agency or shelter.
Golden State Restaurant Group’s Regina Camera said she is proud of the McDonald’s employees for taking their emergency training seriously.
“I think it was just one of those kind of flight or fight type of things … They just took over and didn’t hesitate.”
“It was such an exciting and proud moment for us to know that what we’re doing is working and that our employees are comfortable handling things like that,” she told ABC 7.