Police in San Joaquin County, California, have rescued a woman after she alerted McDonald's employees that she was being held against her will.
About 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve, a woman approached the counter of a McDonald's in Lodi, California, asking an employee to call 9-1-1, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post.
She shared the license plate number of the vehicle that she was traveling in with the employee and asked to be hidden for her safety.
The McDonald's employees then urged her to use the restroom to buy time, KOVR-TV reports. When the woman came out of the restroom, she attempted to place an order at the counter but the suspect who was holding her, Eduardo Valenzuela, demanded that she use the drive-thru.
While the woman and Valenzuela were in the car, the employees deliberately held up the drive-thru lane until police could arrive.
When the car pulled up to the window, the woman continued secretly requesting assistance, mouthing "help me" to the employees. Just then, police arrived at the restaurant and were directed to the car. They immediately rushed out to the vehicle and apprehended Valenzuela.
During the investigation, the woman told police that Valenzuela had been violent with her in the past and that on the day of the arrest he demanded that she take him to visit his family, threatening to end her life with a firearm. Police found a stolen firearm in the trunk of the vehicle.
Valenzuela faces four felony charges, including criminal threats, stolen property, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
She couldn't have visited a better McDonald's
Police are crediting the McDonald's employees for acting fast to rescue the woman from danger.
As it turns out, she picked the right McDonald's to visit. The Golden State Restaurant Group, which owns the McDonald's location visited by the woman, has certified all of its restaurants as "Safe Places."
According to the restaurant group's website, Safe Place is "a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people in need of immediate help and safety." At such places, employees are trained to respond to people who enter the restaurant asking for help.
"We are proud of our team for doing their part in being A SAFE PLACE!" Golden State McDonald's said in a Facebook post of their own.