On Christmas Eve around 2 PM the employees at the Flag City McDonald’s in Lodi, California did a lot more than serve food – they may have helped save a life.
A man and woman walked into the fast-food restaurant, but the woman was in danger.
She managed to get to the counter by herself and tell a no-doubt surprised employee to call 911, providing them with the license plate number of the vehicle they were riding in. She asked them to hide her and they attempted to buy some time by telling her to use the restroom.
By the time she came out, she attempted to approach the counter again, presumably to place an order for the man she was with, Eduardo Valenzuela. But he stopped her and told her to use the drive-thru instead.
Lucky for her, the employee had already called the police and the store manager had employees slow down the line at the restaurant’s drive-thru so police had time to get there in time to intercept the car.
At the drive-thru window, the woman once again reached out for help, mouthing the words “help me” to an employee. Shortly after, police pulled into the parking lot.
They entered the restaurant just in time for the employees to tell them that the woman who needed assistance was still in line outside.
Deputies make their way outside and ordered the car to pull over. The woman was behind the wheel and did as she was told.
She was then able to tell police that Valenzuela had been violent with her in the past and that day he had even threatened her with a gun unless she drove him to visit his family.
Upon searching the vehicle, police found a firearm belonging to Valenzuela in the trunk – a loaded revolver. With a felony conviction already under his belt, he was not allowed to possess the weapon or any ammunition.
Valenzuela was then taken into custody by the deputies and was booked in the San Joaquin County Jail for criminal threats, stolen property, and felony possession of a firearm. His bail was set at $360,000.
While we hope the outcome would be the same at any restaurant, the woman was lucky to have stopped at this particular McDonalds. It’s owned by the Golden State Restaurant Group, which certifies each of its restaurants as an official “Safe Place.”
The Safe Place program is a national program for “young people in need of immediate help and safety” and has locations in schools, fire stations, libraries, and various businesses – you can spot them by the stickers on windows and doors.
This certification means that young people can go to these locations when they are in crisis and employees will connect them with a youth service agency. Of course, Safe Place training means employees are on the lookout for anyone in need, no matter what their age.
There are more than 20,000 Safe Place sites across the US.
Anyone in need of a Safe Place location can check this interactive map or text the word “safe” along with their city, state, or zip code to 4HELP (44357) to receive the location of the closest Safe Place and the number of a local youth agency.
Be sure to scroll down below to see interviews with some of the brave people who saved the woman in need on Christmas Eve.
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