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Family remembers ‘gentle giant’ killed by alleged drunk driver on Valentine’s Day

“He was like a ray of sunshine. He always wanted to be a part of anything that had to do with community."
Posted at 7:46 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 10:41:31-05

RICHMOND, Va. — The family of a Richmond father of five killed by an alleged drunk driver on Valentine’s Day is remembering him as a “gentle giant” and “loving person”.

“He always made me feel proud,” said Rakeem Bland’s mother Linda Bland.

“He was like a ray of sunshine. He always wanted to be a part of anything that had to do with community,” added Bland’s fiancee Danielle Janes. “I loved him. I loved him. He was a good man.”

Janes added that Bland could always make her smile.

“He was just the silliest man I think that I had known, but he also had a very serious, deep, thoughtful side to him,” said Janes.

Richmond Police said Rakeem Bland, 30, was driving his car near the intersection of Broad Rock Blvd. and Midlothian Tpke. around 8:50 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2020 when he was struck by a car driven by Anthoneya A. Hodges, 26. Police said Hodges ran a red light and was charged with driving under the influence.

Richmond Public Schools said Hodges is a teacher at Armstrong High School, which Linda Bland said made her son’s death sting even more.

“How you is trying to educate children, but then you out here doing the wrong thing,” asked Bland.

Bland said Rakeem, her youngest of three sons, was very protective and always there for her.

“He’ll call me every night. Every night. Is you OK?,” said Bland. “He’s going to be missed. You know, because he was the person that I depend on.”

Bland said she had last seen her son earlier that day for a Valentine’s Day dinner with him and his fiancee.

“We was enjoying the meal and the last thing I can remember him saying is enjoy your food, enjoy your food and little did I know that that was going to be the last time that I see him,” said Bland.

Janes said the night before, Rakeem had gotten her several Valentine’s Day gifts, including one that helped the couple settle a friendly argument.

“He even bought me a pack of Chips Ahoy! because we had a debate as to which one was the best between Chips Ahoy! and Oreos dipped in milk,” said Janes, who favored Chips Ahoy!. “We did it. I had to give it to him. The Oreos truly was better, but, you know, I had to stick to my guns for a little while.”

Janes said following the dinner with Rakeem’s mother, they went home to their south Richmond home. He then left there to go work as a security guard at the Vagabond restaurant on Broad St. but was killed on the way.

Rakeem’s family said that along with security/bouncer work, he also served as a personal bodyguard for celebrities that would come to town. But Janes said Rakeem was showing interest in working with people suffering from substance abuse issues, like drunk driving.

“that came from him working in the clubs and seeing how individuals would be intoxicated and leaving out,” said Janes. “Something about the alcohol that just bothered him so much.”

Rakeem’s family said that he also had a passion for cars and motorcycles and was involved with clubs in the Richmond area. He was also a dedicated power lifter, which Linda Bland said she introduced him to. She added that he eventually encouraged and trained her to take part in competitions, for which she has won multiple championships.

“He would pick me up. Mom, you got to be strong. You got to be strong. You can do this,” said Bland. She added, at first, she was not sure if she would continue competing after his death, including a competition in three weeks time, but said she has since decided to try. “I will do it. Not only for him, but for myself. I will do it because that’s what’s going to keep me going.”

The family set-up a GoFundMe to help cover costs associated with their sudden loss.