Miguel Giron didn't take the death threat seriously.
After all, he was a professional soccer player there in his native Guatemala, in addition to operating a small pharmacy and store. And Guatemalans love soccer players.
So Giron took it as bluff when members of one of the armed factions active during the civil war that savaged Guatemala for decades prior to 1996 muscled his father to support them, and upon his refusal threatened to kill his grown children.
"I never thought it would happen to me," said Giron, now 49 and the maintenance man at Friends House, a senior community in Rincon Valley.
He was 28 and at work at the counter of his pharmacy in a mountain village outside of Santa Cruz del Quich?in February of 1991 when seven men stepped in. One approached and asked him for aspirin.
Giron said he turned to take a bottle from the shelf but whipped back at the sensation that "something wasn't right." The man who'd requested the aspirin had pulled out a pistol, and Giron is certain he intended to shoot him squarely in the back.
Instead, because Giron had spun to face the strangers, the bullet the man fired struck him in his upper right arm. A second man then leveled a handgun at him and fired three times.
Giron swears he was thrown backward and collapsed from the impact of slugs. He shouted to his wife, Marlene (pronounced mar-LAY-nay), to run, and they both fled the pharmacy. Relatives heard the commotion, rushed over and chased the assailants away.
At the hospital, the bloodied Giron expected the staff would find he'd been shot four times, but there was only one bullet wound to his arm. Devoutly Christian, he believes it was the hand of God that caused the other shots to miss.
He also credits God with what followed.
Weeks after the shooting, a missionary eager to help Giron flee the country before the assailants could try again learned that a group of Californians was about to leave Guatemala after building a school.
Among the volunteers was Jeff Shaver of Santa Rosa, who's 61 now and retired three weeks ago from Santa Rosa Junior College after working in special education, online education, curriculum development and other areas of the school.
Hearing about Shaver's imminent departure from Guatemala in 1991 was propitious because Giron knew someone in Santa Rosa. More than a decade earlier, Ken Saltzberg, an educator and longtime resident of the Quaker-based Monan's Rill intentional community off St. Helena Road, had lived with Giron's family while performing a Peace Corps project in their village.
Giron phoned Saltzberg, who said he'd be pleased to host him in Santa Rosa. So Giron obtained a tourist visa and flew to California, in April of '91, with Shaver.
Shaver liked Giron, who back then spoke nary a word of English, the moment he met him for the flight to the U.S.
"He's so genuine," Shaver said. "When you looked at his face, you just saw this guy filled with joy, filled with love."
Saltzberg and the other residents of Monan's Rill gave Giron a place to live and helped him find work and English classes. He applied for and was granted political asylum, then permanent residency. He has another five years before he is eligible to become an American citizen.