As with the slayings of so many young African Americans, the murder of 20-year-old Nadirah Ruffin calls to mind the same descriptive adjectives used to describe so many killings in the Black community.
Senseless. Needless. Tragic.
Ruffin, who was also a single mother, was kidnapped last March 26th in Atlantic City by a group of masked home invaders. The home invaders, who were all young African Americans, weren’t content to pistol-whip their victims and steal money and drugs. Because Nadirah recognized the voice of one of the robbers, she was dragged from the residence, pleading for her life. Worried that she would “snitch” to the cops, her captors drove her to Philadelphia, shot her in the head and then threw her lifeless body into the Schuylkill River. Her remains were found April 19.
On Tuesday of this week a team of more than 50 federal, state and local law enforcement officers carried out arrest warrants for six suspects, one of them a woman, wanted in connection with Ruffin’s murder.
Charged in the case are Shamerria Smith, 24, Aziz Sanders, 18 and Deshawn Hicks, 19, all of Atlantic City. The three have been charged with kidnapping resulting in the victim’s death, robbery and weapons offenses.
Also arrested and charged in the case are Ronnie Ruffin, 42, of Lindenwold, New Jersey, Henry Ruffin, 40, of Williamstown, New Jersey and Isiah Ruffin, 20, of Atlantic City. The Ruffin co-defendants are not related to the victim, however, according to police, Ronnie Ruffin is the father of Shamerria Smith. Smith, Sanders and Isiah Ruffin are all first cousins and their parents are siblings.
Brothers Henry and Ronnie Ruffin are accused of witness tampering. Isiah Ruffin has been charged with providing false information to federal agents.
“Well, the entire family is pleased that the police have caught the suspects. This has been a very difficult time for me and my family as you can imagine,” said Derek Longcrier, grandfather of Nadirah Ruffin. The depth of Longcrier’s grief and emotional burden were evident in his voice as he spoke with the Tribune.
“As I understand it, this is still an ongoing investigation. Basically we’re content to let justice take its course. Nadirah was my son’s daughter, and this has been very, very hard on all of us,” Longcrier said. “We’re happy that arrests have been made and are grateful for the efforts of law enforcement.”
The arrests were part of an aggressive investigation by the Atlantic City office of the FBI, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and the Atlantic City Police Department. In addition, personnel of FBI SWAT, New Jersey State Police, FBI Evidence Response Team; Atlantic City Police Department SWAT Team and detectives; the Philadelphia office of the FBI, and the N.J. State Police participated in the operation.
“The kidnapping and murder allegations in the complaint detail an indifference to human life that is shocking,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in a press release. “The complaint describes how associates of those responsible attempted to use threats, violence and lies to prevent us from finding and arresting the suspects. We are grateful for the tireless and cooperative investigative work of the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI, which ultimately led to the arrests of all of those involved.”
The tragedy began with a physical altercation on Wednesday, March 23 between a female referred to in the investigative reports as T.W. and Isiah Ruffin, who were involved in a relationship. The fight between the couple took place in the North Maryland Avenue area of Atlantic City known as “Back Maryland.” The couple was arguing over Ruffin’s alleged involvement with another woman. T.W. believed the “other woman” was Nadirah Ruffin. T.W.’s response was to find Nadirah, confront her and slap her.
This set off a series of confrontations between two groups of young people who all know each other. The end result was a physical confrontation between Isiah Ruffin and an individual identified in the investigative report as Donald Hawkins, a.k.a. “Goldie” on the afternoon of March 23rd. Goldie allegedly beat and robbed Ruffin, putting him in the hospital. Ruffin allegedly told law enforcement officers at the time that he had no idea who robbed and assaulted him.
According to investigators, Shamerria Smith was angry over the incident involving her cousin, Isiah, and Goldie and wanted to retaliate.
“This investigation is of utmost importance to the FBI Safe Street Task Force due to aspects of home invasion, robbery, kidnapping and the senseless murder of a young woman and mother,” said Michael B. Ward, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division in a press release.
“Such acts of violence will not be tolerated and will be met forcefully by the united efforts of law enforcement. The arrests of six subjects believed to be responsible for this extreme violence are an example of that commitment,” Ward said.
On Saturday, March 26, Atlantic City Police were called to the residence of Monica Dunn. Police found four duct-taped women who reported they had been pistol whipped and robbed by a group armed with guns. The assailants were wearing masks and wore dark, hooded sweatshirts. At least one of them was a woman, later identified as Smith. The assailants searched the house in a manner, police said, that indicated they were familiar with the layout of the residence. They stole money and drugs; investigators say portions of the stolen cash were earned from the sale of a narcotic known on the streets as “woki,” marijuana laced with embalming fluid.
During the course of the home invasion, the victims reported to authorities that Ruffin said, “Shamerria, why are you doing this to me? You know me.”
The assailants then forced Nadirah from the house. She was never seen alive again.
On April 19, 2011 just after 10:30 a.m., Philadelphia police received a call reporting the discovery of a body floating in the Schuylkill River near Martin Luther King Drive and Black Road. The body was recovered and subsequently identified as that of Nadirah Ruffin. The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head. Her body was found wrapped in a khaki colored piece of clothing and duct taped.
“This is a very significant arrest,” said Deputy Chief Ernest Jubilee, Commander of the Atlantic City Police Department in a press release. “This is the most significant series of arrests made in one case this year. It was a tragic occurrence and I’m glad that the collaborative effort put forth by all agencies has resulted in these arrests.”
But of course, the arrests will never bring back Nadirah Ruffin, who leaves behind a 4-year-old son.
“It’s times like this that you learn to hold onto your faith in God, because that’s really all you have,” Longcrier said. “Ultimately, God is the true source of justice.”