Employees at a McDonald's restaurant in the northern California city of Lodi are being praised for their quick-thinking after they helped to rescue a woman in danger on Christmas Even, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office said.
According to a Facebook post from the sheriff's office describing the incident, the woman entered the Lodi McDonald's on Tuesday shortly after 2 p.m. and asked an employee at the counter to call 911 and told them the license plate number of the vehicle she was in. She also requested the employees help hide her from the man who had allegedly threatened her life.
The woman went to use the restaurant's restroom and then tried to place an order at the counter. However, her boyfriend, Eduardo Valenzuela, demanded that they use the drive-thru instead, the post said.
When the woman and Valenzuela came through the drive-thru, the woman again pleaded for help, mouthing "help me" to an employee.
That's when the employees jumped into action.
“They informed everyone else down the drive-thru line, and we held up actually two cars in front of that car. By holding those two cars up, it allowed us to then handle that situation, allow law enforcement to get here in a timely manner,” McDonald's marketing manager Regina Camera told KCRA.
The delay was long enough to allow deputies to arrive at the restaurant and confront Valenzuela. They told them to get out of the drive-thru line and pull over.
An investigation revealed that Valenzuela had been violent and abusive to the woman in the past and he had forced her to drive him to visit his family for the holidays, the sheriff's office said.
A search of the vehicle revealed a firearm in the trunk of the car, which had been reported stolen in another state.
"There’s no telling what would have happened. We don’t know if they could have made it to their family’s house in Atwater. The victim could have been possibly abused or even killed," San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office Deputy Andrea Lopez told the outlet.
Employees at McDonald's locations across the county have been trained to recognize and protect human trafficking and domestic violence victims. Stickers on the doors to the restaurant inform victims that it's a safe place and they can alert employees for help.
Valenzuela was arrested on charges of making criminal threats, possession of stolen property and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was taken to the San Joaquin County jail and is expected in court on Friday.
Photo: San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office