California authorities say they are “lovin'” the way McDonald’s employees sprang into action to assist a customer in dire need of help.
The unnamed female patron entered the fast-food franchise’s Flag City location in Lodi, Calif., around 2 p.m. on Dec. 24 and asked an employee behind the counter to call 911, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office said in a release.
She also gave the employee her license plate number and asked staff to hide her from a man who police would later identify as Eduardo Valenzuela.
The woman then used the restroom and attempted to place an order at the counter when she returned, but Valenzuela, who was waiting nearby, spotted her and “demanded” she use the drive-thru instead, police say.
While at the drive-thru window, the distressed customer, who was driving the vehicle with Valenzuela in the passenger seat, allegedly mouthed “help me” to an employee right as police officers arrived on the scene.
After speaking with employees inside the restaurant, deputies learned the woman was in the drive-thru line and were able to pull her over. Authorities investigating the case learned that Valenzuela had a history of violence against the woman, who reportedly appeared shaken.
On the day of the incident, the woman claimed Valenzuela demanded that she take him to visit his family and threatened her life if she refused. Police say they discovered a stolen firearm in the trunk of her vehicle and arrested Valenzuela on the scene.
The suspect is facing multiple felony charges, including criminal threats, stolen property and possession of a firearm as a prohibited person.
The particular McDonald’s location where the incident unfolded is certified by the Safe Place Program, a “national youth outreach and prevention program for young people in need of immediate help and safety.”
All California McDonald’s locations owned by the Golden State Restaurant Group are certified by the program, according to the company’s website.
The group calls itself “honored to assist the Women’s Center Youth & Family Services in their effort to build a safer and stronger community.”
“We are proud of our team for doing their part in being A SAFE PLACE!” the group wrote. “Thank you to our team for handling this appropriately, and to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Deputies who are constantly serving and protecting our community!”
“We are proud to be in support with both A Safe Place and all of our law enforcement!” it continued. “Thank you for all of the community support and please always be safe and aware!”
There are over 20,000 community and business locations across America that partake in the Safe Place Program. Other common locations include libraries, YMCAs, fire stations, grocery stores, public buses and social service facilities.
Participating places typically make their status known by displaying a yellow and black “Safe Place” sign where it is visible to customers.
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