Employees at a McDonald's location in the Central California city of Lodi are being praised for coming to the aid of a woman who mouthed the words "Help me" while placing her order at the drive-thru window, CNN reports. The woman had been traveling with a man who allegedly had a history of abusing her, and she feared for her life.
The woman reportedly first went into the building under the pretense of having to use the restroom. While inside, she purportedly told an employee to call 911, and then gave employees her license plate number and asked them to hide her. After returning from the restroom, she returned to the counter, under the pretense of trying to place an order. However, by this time her companion had reportedly shown up and demanded that they use the drive-thru.
As the couple sat at the drive-thru window, the woman mouthed the words, "Help me."
Fortunately, by this time, the police had arrived. Employees reportedly directed authorities to the car the woman was riding in, and they searched the car and allegedly found a stolen weapon inside. The man, identified by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office as Eduardo Valenzuela, was arrested.
Police would later learn that Valenzuela allegedly had a history of abusing the woman. She told police that, earlier in the day, he had threatened her with a firearm and then forced her to drive him to see his family.
The Golden State Restaurant Group, which owns the McDonald's location where the incident took place, praised its employees for coming to the aid of a customer in need.
"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!," the ownership group said in a statement.
The group also noted that the location participates in the so-called "Safe Place" program, a national youth and prevention program for "young people in need of immediate help and safety."
A similar incident, in which a domestic violence victim got help under the pretense of ordering food, took place in November. As reported at the time by CNN, an Ohio woman pretended to order a pizza but instead dialed 911. It took the operator a while to figure out that the pizza order was just a ruse to get help, but eventually he caught on to what was happening and sent police to the woman's home.