FRIENDS and fans of Ophelia Nichols are rallying behind the beloved TikTok star after her son was tragically gunned down at a gas station in circumstances still unknown to the family.
Randon Lee was shot dead in Prichard, 阿拉巴马州, on Friday night just hours before what should’ve been his 19th birthday.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office confirmed officers are pursuing “multiple suspects” in the case but are refusing to release any further information at this time, citing an ongoing investigation.
Nichols, famed for spreading love and positivity online, issued a gut-wrenching plea to her more than seven million followers on TikTok on Saturday, insisting through tears: “Somebody’s gotta know something.”
Tiffany Polzin, a friend of Nichols’ from Michigan, called Randon’s death a “horrible act” in an interview with The US Sun that has left the family with so many questions – and very few answers.
“Ophelia has lost her – as she calls him – ‘baby child’ who was going to be 19,” said Polzin, who struck up an online friendship with Nichols a few years ago.
“He didn’t even get to live anywhere near his full life at all.
“His killer is – and I hate to use this term – still at large, but we don’t know who it is, we don’t know why they did this; there’s nothing that Ophelia and her family have answers for at the moment.
“Everything remains a mystery,” 她补充说.
“It’s horrible for anyone to lose a child, but Ophelia is a woman who gives herself to others so selflessly, with empathy and sympathy to those around her.
“How could somebody do this to her and her family? … she does so much for everyone else, and she absolutely loves and adores her family so much.”
Polzin, who has never met Nichols in person but regularly interacts with her online, said the social media star appears to be coping “as well as she can” considering the current circumstances.
She said she feels both heartbroken and angry for Nichols following Randon’s death.
“Why did this murder even take place?” asked Polzin. “So is this person out there going to do it again to somebody else? … It’s a horrible thought to sit on.
“And how in the hell could somebody just walk up to somebody else at a gas station and shoot them?
“Is that the world we’re living in now?
“It’s just terrible.”
她继续: “You’re looking at an 18-year-old young man who was going out on a Friday to get some gas, living his life, and now he’s just gone in the blink of an eye.
“That’s a very real feeling for millions of people who just literally go to the gas station to get gas and somebody could just walk up to you and shoot you like that.
“What kind of world are we living in where somebody thinks that’s okay?”
A MOTHER’S HEARTBREAK
Randon was shot at an Exxon gas station on Friday around 7.45am in Prichard, 阿拉巴马州.
He sustained wounds at one service station before driving down the street to another, where he was then found dead moments later.
Ophelia is convinced “somebody’s got to know something” and asked her army of followers to help catch her son’s killer.
在 an emotional video posted to TikTok, 她说: “I have never asked y’all for anything, but I need your help with this.
“Today would have been my baby child’s 19th birthday, but he was taken from me last night.
“Took from my children, my husband, and our family. My son was murdered. He was shot,” Ophelia, known online as Mama Tot, cried.
“And I have this hatred in my heart, that I don’t recognize. Because I’ve never felt hate for anybody. This individual took my son’s life.
“He was just 18 岁. That’s the best part of somebody’s life, and I know they’re out there in my town. They’re out there.
“They’re out there, living and breathing while my son is dead.”
该视频, which has now been viewed nearly 20 百万次, touched the hearts of TikTok users around the world.
Fans of Nichols’ have been using the hashtag “#JusticeforRandon” to pay tribute to the late teen.
RETURNING KINDNESS AND SUPPORT
Polzin said she was stunned to learn of Randon’s death on Saturday and immediately reached out to Nichols to offer her support.
After speaking with Nichols, Polzin and her wife Cari set up a GoFundMe for the devastated mother, which amassed a stunning $280,000 in donations in just over 24 小时.
Amid the heartbreak, Polzin, a clinical health psychologist, said it’s heartwarming to see fans of Nichols – affectionately known as “Mama Tot” 在线的 – rally around her and return the “kindness and positivity” she has for so long personified.
“I know that when people are faced with a tragedy, it’s very hard for them to think about what they need and how somebody may be able to help them, which can really prevent them from grieving,” 她说.
“It was my goal to allow her to grieve, and I asked her if I could start a GoFundMe and get that taken care of for her and she gave me permission.
“Now so many people are writing it’s time to help Mama Tot because she’s been there for us, now let’s be there for her.
“That was this goal for the army of people that have come through to help her and they did it.”
The incredible response to Polzin’s fundraiser saw her suspend fundraising at the request of Nichols, who reportedly said they’d raised “more than enough” 为了她.
Polzin said the request “speaks volumes” of the kind of person Nichols is.
“She didn’t want people to feel like they had to help but so many people wanted to,” 她说.
“There was a lot of frustration when we stopped donations because people really wanted to help still … I ended up sending her PO Box for anyone that still wanted to do anything nice.”
APPEAL FOR HELP
Polzin said she hopes Randon’s killer, or killers, are caught as soon as possible, adding that someone who knows something should come forward to local police.
“Ophelia is asking for help, she feels that someone saw or knows something.
“She said herself, ‘I have hatred in my heart that I don’t recognize because I’ve never felt hate for anybody.’
“This is a woman who loves unconditionally, who stands up for everybody.
“And now she’s asked for help, which she’s never done.
“She just wants some answers.”
The investigation into Randon’s death continues.
Anyone with information can contact the Prichard Police Department at 251-452-7800 or the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office at 251-574-8633.