ANTIOCH, Calif. - An Antioch fast-food restaurant manager said Thursday that she felt compelled to help a teen with special needs from being bullied, even as doing so cost her an eye.
Surveillance video shows a man punching Bianca Palomera, 19, after she told him to stop harassing the teenage boy inside a Habit Burger restaurant.
Her right eye bandaged, Palomera said, "Sometimes I think it’s all like a nightmare and try to open my eye but regardless, I can’t see anything."
She added, "Deep down, there will always be a little regret, but I wouldn’t take it back."
It happened Saturday afternoon at the Habit Burger on Mahogany Way, where Palomera is the assistant manager.
Video shows the man walking into the restaurant. Palomera says he saw the special-needs teen and began bullying him.
"I hear the threats going, him having a problem, saying what are you looking at, stop looking that way," she said.
That’s when Palomera stepped in and confronted him.
"'Hey, you know, what you’re doing is wrong. It’s not right at all. He’s special needs. He doesn’t know what he’s doing,'" she recalled saying.
The man got right into Palomera’s face and yelled slurs at her. Then, without warning, he hit her.
"I didn’t expect him to punch me at all," she said.
He hit her again. She thinks this second punch was the one that destroyed her eye. But she didn’t know it at first.
"I just remember grabbing my eye," Palomera said. "I thought I was crying at first, but then after I saw that I had blood dripping down my shirt, you know, down my cheek."
Doctors performed emergency surgery on her eye. But they couldn’t save it.
The Antioch police investigation is ongoing.
Police are trying to identify her attacker, who left with others in a BMW X3.
Erika Palomera says she and her family are rallying around her sister.
"We’re very proud of her. She did the right thing. Her heart was there when she did it. Just that we feel like she’s getting the short end of the stick."
Bianca Palomera said, "At the end of the day, if you won’t do it, nobody else will. I felt like i had to step in."