Service industry workers tend to see some of the most bizarre and unexpected things during their shifts.
The following story is an example of how something as simple as changing the trash can change your life.
Essential workers deal with a lot
If you have ever worked in a fast food restaurant or service industry job, you know that the only thing that’s predictable about it is that something crazy could happen at any moment.
That’s the joy of being an essential worker.
Shifts are similar for the most part
For the most part, a shift in a restaurant like Mcdonald’s is about the same each day.
But now and then, something crazy happens that makes it a shift that staff will never forget.
A McDonald’s manager had an unusual day
That was certainly the case when McDonald’s manager Delonda Walker headed in for her shift at the Ybor City neighborhood, Florida, location where she works.
It wasn’t her dream job, but it helped pay the bills.
She had worked at the location for a while
Although she was no stranger to dealing with drama across the front counter, Walker never could have imagined what that day held in store for her.
No amount of time in the industry can prepare you for dealing with a criminal.
She didn’t dread working but had different career goals
Unfortunately, the risk of dealing with unstable members of the public is always there for fast-food employees.
Delonda Walker certainly didn’t dread going to her job, and she appreciated having it, but she wasn’t exactly passionate about it either.
Delonda studied at the University of Tampa
After all, she had studied French literature at the University of Tampa and dreamed of starting a career in research.
But life and student debt meant that McDonald’s was the best way to pay the bills.
It was an average busy morning…
She had arrived to work her morning shift as usual and put on her uniform, having no clue what was waiting for her in the front of the restaurant.
It was busy as always but not busy enough that she didn’t notice something unusual.
She noticed something was off about a customer
The Florida community in the Ybor City neighborhood is small and bustling, so the McDonald’s staff has gotten to know the regular customers who frequent the area.
That’s why Delonda Walker knew that something was off when a new customer came in one day.
The stranger made her uncomfortable
A new customer in the restaurant wasn’t strange, but there was something about this particular one that was definitely off-putting.
She immediately felt as though he looked weird and out of place.
He behaved in an intimidating manner
Delonda Walker also noticed how the new customer carried himself in an intimidating, threatening sort of way.
She recalls feeling nervous from the very moment he entered the front door.
Delonda still had a job to do
She didn’t want to judge the man right off the bat but knew that her instincts were telling her something was off.
Despite this feeling, she still had a job to do and put on a professional face.
The unsettled feeling didn’t go away
Still, Delonda felt a strong sense of discomfort when he approached her to read the menu above her head.
With only the counter and computer between them, she couldn’t shake the creeped-out feeling she had.
She took his order
After what felt like forever, the man finally ordered his food. Delonda breathed a sigh of relief that their interaction was nearly over.
Once he had his order he’d be on his way and it would be the last time she would see him— or so she thought.
He made a jumpy gesture at the garbage can
The customer continued behaving strangely, and as he was handed his food, he made a sudden jumpy gesture toward the garbage can.
He jammed a plastic bag into the trash can and swiftly exited the restaurant.
What had he thrown out?
Delonda was curious about what he had thrown in the garbage but took a moment to decide whether she should investigate further.
She had a feeling that she should see what the man had thrown away.
The manager decided to investigate
She abandoned her post behind the counter and approached the garbage can.
All her years in customer service could never have prepared her for what she found discarded in the trash.
She found a gun in a bag
When she pulled the plastic bag out of the garbage bin, it was clear that she was holding an actual gun.
The weapon appeared to be loaded, and she was immediately fearful the strange man might return.
She called the police immediately to report it
Delonda went to the back to call the police and report the incident.
It wasn’t long before officers arrived at her restaurant to collect the weapon and examine it for evidence.
Officers asked for a description and security footage
Officers asked Delonda for a description of the man’s features and behavior. Then they collected security footage and the weapon before leaving the restaurant.
After they were gone, she felt anxiety start to creep in.
She was left with a lot of questions
She still had a lot of unanswered questions about the weapon, who the man was, and whether he was dangerous.
It would be days of wondering before she received a fateful call from the police department.
Police arrested the man but needed Delonda’s help
Police told her that they were conducting an ongoing investigation and thought they had finally caught the suspect.
He was being held at the Tampa Bay Police Department, and investigators were relying on Delonda to give them a positive identity in person.
She gave officers a positive identity from a line up
Delonda was standing behind a one way mirror and had to identify the man in a lineup of people.
Without hesitation, she recognized his face. Even though he couldn’t see her, she felt as though he was looking right at her.
Detective Sargeant Jeremy Williams
Delonda was escorted to the waiting room, where she was left to wait and wonder what crime the man had committed and what she had gotten tangled up in.
Finally, the lead officer on the case, Detective Sergeant Jeremy Williams, came to get her.
The man was a dangerous criminal
Detective Williams led Delonda to his office, where he explained some concerning details to her.
In a serious tone, he explained, “Delonda, the man you identified is a dangerous criminal.”
The case was more serious than she ever could have guessed
But what he told her next was enough to chill her to her core.
She quickly realized that the case was much more serious than she ever could have guessed.
The oddly behaving customer was a serial killer
The detective calmly told Delonda that this man was quite possibly the most dangerous person she had ever encountered.
As it turns out, the oddly behaving customer who ditched the gun was the main suspect in a serial killer investigation.
He had been terrorizing the wider Tampa area
Detective Williams explained that this man was most likely responsible for terrorizing the wider Tampa area for some time now.
Investigators had been building a case against him for a while, but all the evidence was circumstantial. That was until he came into Delonda’s store.
The killer had potential but also a dark, violent secret
The suspect was named Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. On the surface, he had been a star student-athlete on the basketball team when he graduated from St. John’s University in New York.
But deep down, he seemed to have a darker secret.
Officers couldn’t connect him to the evidence
Officers had tons of evidence but couldn’t directly connect it to the suspect.
They told Delonda that after reviewing security footage from her McDonald’s location, they noticed a blindspot in a crucial area. Because of this, they could not recover footage of Howell throwing the bag into the trash.
Only Delonda could confirm she had seen him with the gun
Detective Williams explained that without Delonda’s testimony saying she witnessed him throw it out, the suspect would have to be released, which meant that he would be out on the streets again.
She thought about the victims and decided she needed to follow through with this for them, even though she was scared.
She decided to give a statement in hopes of keeping him in jail and it worked
Just as Detective Williams promised, her statement was enough to get the suspect’s bail denied, and they began preparing for trial.
In the end, it would be Delonda’s testimony in court that was the final deciding factor in tying Howell to the gun.
There was finally enough evidence to declare him guilty
Since the weapon had been connected to other murders, the evidence was enough to finally convict Howell Emanuel Donaldson III.
The former athlete was sentenced to life in prison, and Delonda was finally free of the horrible ordeal.
People were moved by Delonda’s courage
Delonda returned to work but only for a short while.
People in her community had heard about the story and felt compassion for the young manager who had been brave on the stand in front of a killer.
She was even gifted money to finish school!
One woman learned of Delonda’s story and ambitions and awarded her a check for $9,000.00 so that Delonda could finish her studies.
In the end, Delonda’s decision to step up and use her voice made her a hero to the victims’ families.