A teenage fast-food worker in California recently lost an eye after defending a man with special needs.
The horrific incident unfolded Nov. 12 at a Habit Burger Grill location in Antioch.
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Bianca Palomera, 19, told KNTV-TV she stepped in to help the individual with special needs, the brother of a co-worker waiting for his sibling’s shift to end.
When a man started harassing the individual, Palomera told him to stop. And that’s when chaos ensued. After Palomera told the man what he was doing wasn’t right, he turned his rage in her direction.
“He punched me once, and my headset and my glasses went flying off my face,” she explained. “He was throwing threats and slurs, saying that he was going to ‘beat him up’, ‘Why does he keep looking his way?'”
Palomera defended herself and was struck additional times, which can be seen on security footage. Tragically, she was rushed to the hospital and told she would lose her right eye.
Her sister, Erica Palomera, created a GoFundMe and has already raised more than $136,000.
“As a result of the attack, she was rushed to a nearby trauma center, where she underwent emergency surgery,” Erica wrote after the attack. “Unfortunately, she sustained irreversible injuries that cost her losing her right eye completely. Thankfully, she is now in stable condition.”
Antioch Mayor Lamar A. Thorpe published an update Sunday, encouraging people to keep Palomera and her family in their prayers. He also pledged to push for prosecution once the attacker is detained, and shared an important medical update.
“On Friday, she went in for her final surgery to completely remove her eye. She will be given a prosthetic eye,” he wrote. “To say this a disappointing and angering matter is an understatement. This started because an individual thought it was appropriate to bully a child with special needs. Disgusting.”
Thorpe praised Palomera and called her a hero for her kind actions.
The assailant, who has not been caught, fled the scene right after the attack in a silver BMW.
Despite losing her eye, Palomera said she doesn’t regret helping, as the situation could have been far worse for the man with special needs.
“This is the last thing I would have expected out of anything,” she said. “I don’t fully regret helping, stepping in. It could have been worse for my co-worker’s brother.”