It’s every parent’s worst spring break nightmare come true: Fun in the sun somehow turned into a south-of-the-border bloodbath for 21-year-old Zeke Rucker. The vacationing Rutgers University graduate was discovered alone outside his resort hotel in the wee hours of the morning of March 16, bleeding and unconscious by a swimming pool. His heartbroken and horrified family has questions. American and Mexican officials don’t have any answers — or any immediate interest in finding out what happened to Zeke.
Did he fall? Was he beaten? Did hotel staff witness anything? A resort security guard found Rucker at around 4 a.m. near some lounge chairs with his head “bashed in.” According to family members, the hotel has interior surveillance video showing Rucker “staggering” from his room. But there is no exterior video to shed light on what happened once he exited the hotel or when and how exactly he sustained his grave head injuries. His wallet and ID were left intact inside his hotel room.
Zucker’s New Jersey-based parents strongly suspect foul play and random violence. But the American consulate told the family there will be no investigation, and Zeke’s parents say the Mexican police didn’t even bother to meet with them.
Mexican consulates on American soil are famous for vigorously intervening on behalf of their illegal alien citizens — lobbying to get them driver’s licenses, bank accounts and health care, for example, and rushing to defend illegal alien border-crossers arrested in reckless- and drunk-driving cases.
Where are our U.S. lawmakers to put pressure on our U.S. State Department to get to the bottom of the Ruckers’ Cancun horror?
For now, the family is focused on nursing Zeke back to health. He remains in a coma under heavy sedation after undergoing emergency surgery in Mexico to remove a hematoma in his brain. During that surgery, he suffered an infection that has left him with a raging fever and complications. Zeke was flown to Miami’s Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital for top-notch care.
But not without difficulty.
Zeke’s aunt, Jodi, related the Ruckers’ hellish experience transporting her nephew out of the violence-wracked country: “The air ambulance team is made up of ex-military men who have done evacuations out of many countries. They say that Cancun is one of the most difficult places to get out of. The air ambulance team when landed in Mexico was surrounded by military with guns drawn that then searched the plane.”
The Ruckers hired a “handler,” who “basically gives the Mexicans American cash for their plane to land and take off safely. It’s called ‘greasing the monkey.’ (Zeke’s father) was getting anxious because of the amount of guns and men surrounding the plane, and the pilot told him not to worry because ‘they greased this monkey (plane) good.’ They were allowed to take off about an hour later. Corruption is abundant there.”
Adding to the emotional strain and bureaucratic headaches: The Mexican hospital that treated Zeke demanded upfront payment for all of the costs related to his care, surgery and stay before allowing him to leave. Can you imagine the international uproar if a U.S. hospital demanded the same of Mexican citizens in their care? The Ruckers’ insurer here in the States was able to change the terminology of Zeke’s airlift from “transport” to “evacuation” in order to cover those costs.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers and help from Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Ruckers have received assistance for their hotel lodging while Zeke gets treatment. Their friends and neighbors are holding a benefit fundraiser on April 14 at Randazzo Pizza in Sewell, N.J., to assist with costs. And well-wishers can leave comments and tributes on their CaringBridge page here: www.caringbridge.org/visit/zekerucker.
Amid myriad unsolved border violence cases over the past month — the cold-blooded murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, the assassination of an American consulate worker and her federal security officer husband in Juarez, and on and on — the case of Zeke Rucker has a special, chilling resonance with every parent of a teen or 20-something. This could have been your child. What would you do if no one would answer your questions? Apathy is not an option.