This week’s “Thankful Thursday” would like to commend the quick actions of the employees at the McDonald’s in Lodi, CA to help a woman in a dangerous situation. The employees met the woman after she walked into the Flag City McDonald’s just after 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
“A guest came in, and she notified our employees that there was some sort of an emergency and she was in a stressful situation. We encouraged her to use the restroom.” said Regina Camera, marketing manager for the franchise owner. The woman asked the employees to help hide her and to call 911. The woman even gave the employees the license plate number of the car she was riding in.
As the woman tried to place an order at the counter, the suspect, Eduardo Valenzuela came in and demanded she use the drive-thru. The woman returned to the car and proceeded to go through the drive-thru. “In the drive-thru she actually mouthed to one of our employees “help,” said Camera. “Our restaurant manager had our employees actually hold up the drive-thru line… We were able to safely call our law enforcement and get them here in time to help,” said Camera.
When the San Joaquin County Deputies arrived, the employees said the woman in the car needed help. The deputies then ordered the pair out of the car. The victim told deputies that Valenzuela told her to take him to visit his family but then threatened to kill her.
The deputies subsequently located a loaded firearm in the trunk of the car and determined that Valenzuela was a felon. As a felon, he is not allowed to possess or own any firearms or any ammunition.Valenzuela was booked in the San Joaquin County Jail for criminal threats, stolen property and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
But what’s important about this story is that the woman chose the right place to ask for help.
The Golden State Restaurant Group, which owns the McDonald’s location that the woman went to, has certified each of its restaurants as a “Safe Place.”
The Safe Place program is a national youth and prevention program designed for young people in need of immediate help and safety. Safe Place is a network of locations; schools, fire stations, libraries and businesses that displays a distinctive yellow and black safe place sign. Young people can go to locations with these signs in times of crisis to find a secure place to stay and be connected with a youth service agency or shelter.
There are more than 20,000 Safe Place sites across the US. People can check for a Safe Place location by checking their interactive map or text the word “safe” along with their location (city, state, or zip code) to 4HELP (44357). They will receive a reply with the closest Safe Place and the number of their local youth agency.
In a Facebook post, “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! Thank you for all of the community support and please always be safe and aware!”