When she took her children to church on Monday, she expected them to learn a lesson about the Christmas holiday. Instead, the children saw their mother get shot, hit by a stray bullet. The story is frightening.
"We were at church with my daughters and some people passed by shooting at the church," the Guatemala native recalled speaking from her hospital bed, still shaken by the scene of events that played out Monday night. "I looked back and I saw a bullet coming at my son's head and I threw myself over my son."
Reverend Edvin Salguero was telling a story about the birth of Christ when at least four bullets pierced through the walls into the sanctuary of Bethel Centro Evangelistico Church and directly in the path of parishioners. "I'm scared. I say to the people, 'I have to stop the sermon now. Go down, fast as you can,'" he said. Maria was fast, but her instincts were to turn to shield her children, putting her in the direct path of a stray bullet. "I got shot in the lung. It also injured my intestines and my stomach," she said.
The shooting started just before 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the day most Latinos celebrate the Christmas holiday. Salguero says there were more than 100 parishioners inside, most of them Spanish-speaking, many of them children, all of them in shock. "I threw myself down and I got a chair and put it in front of me so a bullet could just hit the chair," survivor Edvin Salguero Jr. said. It was a lesson no child should ever have to learn.
"I tell the people, 'Stay close to God because you never know,'" Rev. Salguero said. He says he has no intention of leaving the neighborhood as most of his parishioners live in the area.
Maria is expected to survive her injuries but will need two more surgeries. Oakland police are continuing to investigate the shooting.