ATLANTIC CITY — As armed gunmen dragged a crying, duct-taped Nadirah Ruffin from her cousin’s home Saturday night, the 19-year-old seemed more concerned for her young child than herself.
“I’ve got a son,” Ruffin’s mother was told her daughter said during the abduction. “Please don’t do this to me.”
Nadirah Ruffin, an Atlantic City High School graduate, was at the home in the city’s Back Maryland neighborhood Saturday night with four other women when four gun-wielding suspects with masks stormed inside, duct-taped the group and took Ruffin.
“She was crying,” her mother, Fonda Ruffin, said, shaking her head. “Just crying.”
Deputy Chief Ernest Jubilee said police do not know why Nadirah was taken but are hoping a comment by one of the abductors may be a clue.
“We’re taking her to the Ville,” Jubilee said one of the suspects said during the incident, using a common slang term for Pleasantville. Police from the neighboring city and surrounding areas are assisting, along with other law-enforcement agencies, he said.
“At this point, there is no connection (between the teen and her abductors) that we know of,” Jubilee said.
“Maybe she knew them,” Fonda Ruffin said, adding the suspects may have feared she would “snitch,” or report them to police. “She was very well-known. Very well-known. Everyone knew her.”
But Fonda said her daughter would not tell, knowing that she would need to protect herself and her son.
“I just want my baby home,” she said. “No questions asked. Her son needs her. I need her. Her brother and her sister need her.”
Nadirah lives for her son, Jahlil, who recently turned 4, Fonda said.
“She was working and going to school to have a life for her and her son,” Fonda said. “She was doing everything she was supposed to do.”
Now, police are doing everything they can to help find her, Jubilee said.
“We have all of our resources devoted to looking for her now,” Jubilee said. “This effort will continue at this level until we find her.”
The call letting her know her daughter was gone came at about 11:30 Saturday night.
“Fonda, Nadirah got abducted,” Fonda’s sister told her.
“What?” Fonda replied, unable to comprehend what was happening.
She headed over to the home on the 800 block of North Maryland Avenue, but there were no answers there. No one understood what had happened. The five women had been inside when there was a knock on the door, Fonda said.
“She’s waiting for us,” a man on the other side said, and the women opened the door.
The four masked figures pushed their way in, binding everyone with duct tape and ransacking the house.
“Give us everything you have,” they were told, Fonda said.
Jubilee would not confirm what — if anything — was taken, but Fonda said the most the robbers likely got was about $100 in cash. She also said the abductors were three men and one woman, another detail police would not confirm.
“They did talk,” Fonda said of her daughter’s abductors. “That’s how (the girls in the house) could tell they were young.”
She said she knows the kidnappers are likely scared but said she does not want to cause them any trouble. If they tell her what they want, she will give it to them for her daughter’s safe return.
Jahlil has asked about his mother only once. When they went to pick up some of Nadirah’s belongings at her aunt’s home in Egg Harbor Township, some girls were leaving the building, Fonda said.
“Is my mom in there?” Jahlil asked.
When he was told no, he asked where she was.
“She’ll be back,” Fonda said one of the girls told him.
The family has been taking care of Jahlil, trying to keep him occupied. Fonda also said she alerted counselors at her two younger children’s schools in case they need to talk.
She said her son, a 10th-grader at Atlantic City High School, has asked for his sister’s return, but her sixth-grade daughter, who attends PleasanTech Academy in Pleasantville, has not said anything.
“I don’t think she understands it yet,” Fonda said.
She wants her daughter there when Fonda marks her 41st birthday April 10.
“That’s what I’m hoping and praying for,” she said. “Right now, I’m petrified. I’m scared for her.”
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Anyone with information about the abduction of Nadirah Ruffin is asked to call the Atlantic City police Detective Bureau at 609-347-5766 or Atlantic County Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234.