Fast-Food Worker Loses Eye Protecting Special Needs Boy

A fast-food worker in the Bay Area is recovering after an incident at her job left her with a permanent bodily injury.

On Saturday Nov. 12, fast-food employee Bianca Palomera, 19, was working at the Mahogany Way location of the Habit Burger Grill in Antioch, California when she noticed a man bullying a boy with special needs. The boy, who she said is the brother of her co-worker, was waiting in the store when he started being harassed by a man and three other people.

Palomera approached the man and asked him to stop bothering the boy. The man then turned his attention to her, and that’s when the conflict escalated.

“He was throwing threats and slurs saying that he was going to ‘beat him up,’ ‘why does he keep looking his way?’ That’s when I step in and I said, ‘It’s not right what you’re doing,’” Palomera told NBC affiliate KNTV in a televised interview on Nov. 16.

The altercation, which was caught on security cameras, shows a view of the register area at 4:32 p.m. A man in a fur-trimmed jacket stands inches away from Palomera in the store lobby and then he punches her in the face.

In the resulting melee, several other people get involved before Palomera manages to separate herself from the man, who quickly leaves the store and gets into a silver BMW with the people he came with, quickly driving away.

“He punched me once, and my headset and my glasses went flying off my face,” Palomera said.

After the incident, Palomera went to the hospital where her sister said she received the news that she would lose an eye in the aftermath of the assault.

“As a result of the attack she was rushed to a nearby trauma center where she underwent emergency surgery,” said Erica Palomera in a Facebook post on Nov. 15. “Unfortunately, she sustained irreversible injuries that cost her losing her right eye completely. Thankfully she is now in stable condition.”

A GoFundMe has been set up for Bianca’s medical recovery by her sister Erica. It has garnered over $70,000 of its $65,000 goal as of this writing.

Encouraging words of support have also appeared as comments on the fundraising drive, particularly multiple messages from strangers who said they have special needs children and appreciate her defense of a child in need.

Antioch police told NBC Bay Area on Nov. 16 that the incident is an open investigation and they have no suspects in custody. On Facebook, the victim’s sister has been posting the security video and other images captured by bystanders, asking for help identifying the attackers.

When reached for comment, the Habit Burger Grill issued TODAY Food the following statement:

Palomera is currently recovering at home and said she’s still trying to process what happened, but isn’t regretful of her actions that day.

“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.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com