Almost three months has passed since Brandon Lee, a San Francisco native, was shot and nearly killed in the Philippines.
Still recovering from his injuries, Lee touched down Saturday at San Francisco International Airport - a 20-hour flight home from the Philippines.
Lee's family and friends said the shooting was an attempted assassination and that he had been targeted for his work as a human rights activist. They had worked hard to get the U.S embassy and lawmakers to help keep him safe and get him flown back to San Francisco to get the medical care he needed.
"It's been a bit surreal. I'm excited that we'll be able to see him that he is alive," said Melissa Reyes who was among the family and friends at SFO to welcome Lee home.
In August, the 37-year-old was shot four times while outside his home in Ifugao province, a mountainous region in northern Philippines.
Lee said he had received death threats prior to the shooting because of his work as an advocate for indigenous people and environmental protections.
"The fact that he went to this totally different country, different community to do the work that he was doing, he's a really special person," said friend Carlo Montemayor,
Lee's mother, Louise Lee, was by his side as he was flown back to San Francisco.
She was also by his side when he was hospitalized in the Philippines when there were threats to his safety.
"It's a powerful story. It's also sadly something that has happened to a lot of people who live in the Philippines who have been targeted for assassination," said San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney who had visited Lee in a hospital in the Philippines and helped the family in their efforts to keep him safe and airlifted to San Francisco. .
The medical airlift cost $164,000. Family members said they paid for it with a loan and a donation from from an environmental group in Europe. .
"It's a big relief. We're very grateful that he's here. It's almost unbelievable that he's here. We're exhausted but excited," said Raquel Redondiez, a friend who's worked closely with Brandon's family.
Lee is still recovering from his injuries. An ambulance transported him to the hospital, where his loved ones followed.
"We really miss him. We're so happy he's still with us," said Melissa Reyes, a friend.
Family and friends told KTVU the bullets are still in Lee and that he'll undergo a full medical examination by doctors at the hospital. Given his passion for protecting human rights and the environment, they say there is no doubt he'll want to continue his work helping others.