Pat Tucker thought he was doing a good deed when he agreed to help two men who appeared at his farmhouse one night last spring claiming they were out of gas.
Instead, he was kidnapped, held for ransom and shot four times in the back of the skull.
Grateful for his survival and with a new-found belief in God, Tucker says, “Every day is a good day now.”
His three captors have now pleaded guilty, so Tucker and his wife, Teri, recently spoke about the ordeal to the Tri-City Herald.
They were watching “Frasier” on television when the doorbell rang, and two men said they needed gas.
“I just had a bad feeling because we’re the last house. They would have had to pass other farms to get to us,” Teri Tucker said.
But Tucker, recovering from a bout of the flu, found a gas can with a few gallons in it and watched as they poured it in their car. He said he grew suspicious when they went from needing gas to seeking work to knowing his name.
Tucker, 46, maneuvered so he was between the men and the house, where his two daughters and wife were, just before the men grew menacing and pulled a gun on him.
For the next 18 hours, he endured a litany of threats to “blow your head off,” excruciating pain in his tightly bound and swollen hands and cramped legs. He only recently got full feeling back in his hands.
Tucker spent most of the night with his face ground against broken glass on the floor of a Hermiston, Ore., wrecking-yard van set on blocks without tires or an engine.
Many times he was forced to the “execution position” on his knees, face down in the dirt.
After one incident, his ears ringing and his head aching from having a pistol fired into the back of his head, Tucker was certain he was about to die.
Then another shot smacked into his head, apparently because he had moved his fingers.
“If I’m going to have my last thoughts, they should be good thoughts,” Tucker told himself. “I replayed in my mind the first time I saw each of my children.”
He was at peace.
“I had pretty much determined I had a good life, and I had treated people fairly,” Tucker said. “I wasn’t terrified. I don’t remember feeling terror at all.”
Then he thought of his wife, who had always been more devoted to their church. “It came to me, ‘Gee, I’ll bet all her friends are praying for me,”’ Tucker said.
“At that instant, all those prayers had been gathered up by God and sent right back down to my head and I heard those prayers,” he said. “The message was, ‘Why are you so willing to lie in the dirt and die when so many want you to live?’
“At that point, I went from accepting death and being ready for it to trying to figure out a way to live,” Tucker said.
He was freed after a $250,000 ransom was paid May 15.
Four head wounds that ripped open his scalp but didn’t penetrate his skull were treated at a Hermiston hospital. The .25-caliber pistol he was shot with was loaded with live ammunition when investigators found it, but Tucker doesn’t know whether his assailants fired blanks at the back of his head or live ammunition.
Nicolas Ramirez, 30, of Hermiston, Ore., pleaded guilty to kidnapping Tucker last week in U.S. District Court. He has not yet been sentenced.
Juan Raul Portillo, 23, of Hermiston, and Jose Gaeta, 18, of Stanfield, Ore., pleaded guilty earlier and both received sentences of slightly more than nine years in prison.