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TikTok star says she’s ‘grateful but not happy’ after son’s alleged killer turns himself in

Ophelia Nichols' 18-year-old son Randon Lee died by gun violence on June 24.
In Alabama, a 20-year-old turned himself in on Thursday, Aug. 18 and was charged with the murder of Randon Lee, the son of TikTok star Ophelia Nichols.
In Alabama, a 20-year-old turned himself in on Thursday, Aug. 18 and was charged with the murder of Randon Lee, the son of TikTok star Ophelia Nichols. Ophelia Nichols / Instagram
/ Source: TODAY

In Alabama, a 20-year-old turned himself in on Thursday, Aug. 18 and was charged with the murder of Randon Lee, the son of TikTok star Ophelia Nichols.

The Prichard Police Department told WPMI, an NBC affiliate in Mobile, Alabama, that Reuben Gulley turned himself in at approximately 5 p.m. at a jail in the city. 

Nichols, who is known on social media as “shoelover99,” shared a three-minute long video on TikTok discussing the news on Friday, August 19. She left a message up the entire duration of the video that simply read, “Grateful, but not happy.”

“I’m getting 100 messages saying ‘You must be so happy right now’ and I am not,” she told the camera. “I am not happy. When situations like this happen or other traumatic situations, I look at everything. I don’t just look at this and this and make a decision or an opinion. I look at everything.”

Nichols said when she saw the mugshot of Gulley, she immediately thought, “‘My goodness, he’s just a baby.’”

“And then the same comments from his teachers that said, ‘I taught him in high school. He was a lovely young man,’” she recalled. “Yeah, I bet he was. That just made me think within 11 seconds, he made the decision to just throw his life away.”

The TikTok star encouraged her community, both locally and online, to treat Gulley’s family with kindness during these difficult times.

“So remember this — there’s now two families that are that are hurt,” she said. “And those parents shouldn’t suffer for something that their child did. Just as well as I shouldn’t suffer for anything that my children have done.”

After her son’s death the day before he turned 19, she recalled the moment that hurt her the most, explaining, “What hurt me really big was when this all come out the people in my town, people I grew up with, shop at the same store they did, made such terrible comments about my baby child. After I think ‘Why, you don’t even know him?’”

“And then I thought last night Lord, I hope she don’t go through that because I don’t wish that on anybody,” Nichols added. “That was really hard for me. Neither one of our children should have been there that night.”

While Nichols acknowledged that it would be a “long road to justice,” and she hoped it would be “done right,” she concluded her message with a touching sentiment, adding, “But there are two families here, not just me. There’s also a lot of families in that town that ain’t never got justice that should.”

The Prichard Police Department did not respond to a request for comment from TODAY at the time this article was published.

On June 24, Lee was fatally shot at a gas station located in Prichard, Alabama. During a press conference, authorities said that the teenager was dealing marijuana when he was killed. At the time, there were multiple suspects who were identified but no arrests were made yet.

The day after his death, Nichols, who has three other children, shared a post on Facebook opening up about the death of her son by gun violence. At the time, she called for justice, writing, “I know the days ahead are completely unknown but the only hope I have, is that this person is found and prosecuted for the murder of my son.”

In a now-deleted TikTok video, she also reached out to her large following to ask for help in finding out answers surrounding her sons death.

“I have this hatred in my heart that I don’t recognize because I’ve never felt hate for anybody,” she said in the video. “And I know they’re out there in my town. They’re out there living and breathing and my son is dead.

On June 28, Nichols shared a post on Instagram with several images of her son throughout the years. In the caption, she penned a lengthy message mourning the loss of Lee, as well as addressing his actions at the time of his death.

“Please don’t think badly of my son for the circumstances of how he was taken,” she wrote. “We are not ashamed of him, and never will be. When I was 18, I made poor choices myself.”

Nichols ended her caption with a pledge to use her platform and her voice to make a difference in her community.

“I plan to use that voice in Randons name to help other youth in my city stay on the right track,” she said. “I will find the perfect nonprofit to stand with, work with and donate to, so that mentorship’s can keep going in hopes it lifts others up just the way I do everyday. Randons name will mean something to others.”