With her trademark intro —”Hello, my little tater tot” — and her honeyed deep South accent, Ophelia Nichols, aka @shoelover99 or “Mama Tot,” is known for spreading love and positivity to her millions of TikTok followers, often posting videos providing comfort and support to those who have been bullied on the platform.
On Saturday, however, Nichols was the one asking her followers for help. In a gut-wrenching video posted to her page on Saturday, she revealed that her son Randon, 18, had been fatally shot the night before at a gas station in Prichard, Alabama, not far from Mobile.
“I’m doing this video for a reason, ‘cause I need y’alls help,” Nichols says in the video. “I never asked y’all for anything but I need your help with this. There’s almost 7 million people that follow me. Somebody’s gotta know something.”
Nichols went on to explain that her son Randon had been killed the night before, the day before what would have been his 19th birthday. “I have this hatred in my heart that I don’t recognize because I’ve never felt hate for anybody,” she said before imploring her followers to share any information they may have on Randon’s death.
You will be found! You will reap what you sow in this world. You may not be caught now but its coming. I hope you see my sons face eveyday of your life
“I know they’re out there in my town. They’re out there, living and breathing, when my son is dead,” she said, showing a picture of herself with Randon. “And I want you to look at my son. Look at him. Look at him. This is my son and you took him from me. Look at his face. Look at it. Because I’ll never see it again. Somebody knows who did this to my child, and I am asking for somebody’s help, anybody’s.”
In response to Nichols’ video, which has almost 20 million views on TikTok, Mama Tot fans have rallied to support her, with more than 4,000 creators making videos stitching hers asking viewers to share any information. One woman, Cari Polzin, set up a GoFundMe page to provide donations for Nichols’ son’s funeral, which raised more than $281,000 before donations were put on pause at Nichols’ request, Polzin wrote.
On her Facebook page, Nichols expressed gratitude to her followers for the donations and the support. “I think of myself as this normal person who just loves on people but I forget that I have grown a family of almost 7 million via social media & I am grateful for you all,” she wrote. “Thank you for the continued prayers for myself, my husband, my children and our family.”
When reached for comment, Detective Jason Hadaway of the Prichard Police Department said: “Anything I tell you right now is gonna undermine my investigation, so that’s a no comment at this time.” He did, however, confirm that the department was actively pursuing multiple suspects in the case, and that they would provide more information once those suspects were placed in custody.
In a follow-up comment on her video, Nichols also confirmed that the police had a lead on two individuals. “I hope they see this video & know what they have done to my family,” she wrote.