RICHMOND, Va. -- Lakeith Ruffin Jr. spent his Sunday celebrating a relative's birthday at a Shockoe Bottom restaurant in Richmond.
The 30-year-old Highland Springs High School graduate extended the celebration at a club in the neighborhood.
He never came home.
"It's never easy losing a child, especially a great child," Lakeith's mother Tracey Ruffin said. "I always wanted my children to have a better life than me."
Someone shot and killed Ruffin on Sunday night.
Officially, Richmond Police said Ruffin was shot along the 100 block of North 19th Street. Tracey Ruffin said her son was in a club when there was a dispute over a woman.
When Ruffin left with his group, someone opened fire on them.
"I'm just trying to process it all," Tracey Ruffin said.
Mrs. Ruffin had just returned to Richmond after attending T.D. Jakes' International Leadership Summit in North Carolina when she got into contact with her son, for what would be the last time.
"He'd given me some birthday money to go on the trip," Ruffin recalled. "I came home with power, fulfillment, and joy."
She credited that trip and the lessons in faith she learned for helping through this darkest of times.
"My son wasn't alone when he died," she said. "Someone passed by after he was shot and called the police. Someone covered him with a blanket and tried to console him. That didn't happen to Jesus. That happened to my son. I know his last thoughts were about his family and about Jesus."
Lakeith Ruffin Jr. was born on January 21, 1992.
As a child, he joined the St. Paul's Baptist Church step team and played baseball.
After starting at Elijah House Academy, he eventually transitioned to public school at Fairfield Middle and Highland Springs High School.
"He was Homecoming King in 11th grade," his mother said. "His smile. His persona. His attitude. He had a willingness to see good in everyone. "
He continued his education at Norfolk State and eventually landed a job at Performance Food Group.
He was starting to learn how to drive tractor-trailers before his life came to a sudden end.
"I always wanted my children to have a better life than me," Tracey Ruffin said. "I tried to bring him up with a Christian foundation so he would always remember he was loved."
She shared one of the final text messages she sent her son, on the day he turned 30.
"Today was one of the best days in my life. When I found out I was having a son, my world was full of everything I had wished for," the text read. "I knew that a mother’s love for her son was beyond priceless. I wanted nothing but the best for you. I thought I knew everything about being a mother but I had to realize that it comes with trial and error. I know I overprotected you. I spoiled you with things that I thought could take the place of my love, not realizing that the love should have been me, present, patient, and more love hugs and kisses.
Instead, I worked to provide the things I had missed out on that I thought you guys may have needed. Yet you still have made me so proud. I remember missing your baseball games a lot because of work. Then when I started coming I could not sit down from screaming out your name. I remember all the As you got on your report card. I remember you wanting to get out of private school to start going to public school and you shared with me watching all the kids go from class to class. I remember the teacher saying you used to pimp to the desk because I knew you were excited to be out of those uniforms. I remember you got inducted to the National Honor Society in 8th grade, homecoming king in 11th grade. You always had your father’s manners and charisma. You could do anything."
Anyone with information about the shooting that killed Lakeith Ruffin was asked to call Major Crimes Detective G. Russell at 804-646-7715 or contact Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.