Civil rights advocates and 2020 candidate Cory Booker are calling for investigators to treat the killing of a black Arizona teen last week as a hate crime.
Police say at 1:42 a.m. on July 4, 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin pulled into the Circle K convenience store and gas station in Peoria, Arizona, listening to hip-hop music in his car. Just minutes after Al-Amin stepped into the store, Michael Paul Adams came up behind him and allegedly slit his throat with a pocket knife, then stabbed him twice in the back.
Police tried to revive the teen before taking him to a local hospital. Al-Amin was pronounced dead less than half hour after he was stabbed.
Adams, 27, was arrested shortly after the incident took place, and he quickly admitted to killing Al-Amin over the rap music because it made him feel “unsafe.”
According to police reports, Adams, a white man, said his aversion to rap comes from previous incidents where he’s been attacked by black, Hispanic and Native Americans who listen to the genre.
“Adams further stated, people who listen to rap music are a threat to him and the community," the police report says. "Adams felt he needed to be 'Proactive rather than reactive' and protect himself and the community from the victim."
Adams was taken to Maricopa County jail for suspicion of first-degree murder. The Arizona Department of Corrections later reported that Adams had just been released two days earlier from Arizona State Prison, where he served time for aggravated assault and removal of a theft detection device. And court records show prior arrests for disorderly conduct, assault with a weapon, and assault on a corrections officer.
During his first appearance in court July 5 for the murder charge, Adams’ lawyer Jacie Cotterell claimed her client has had a history of mental illness and shouldn’t have been released from prison unless he had access to mental health services. However, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections later said Adams wasn't designated as seriously mentally ill during his previous arrest.
Al-Amin’s murder has sparked outrage on social media. The hashtag #JusticeForElijah was trending on Twitter earlier this week, with tweets from users showing solidarity in the teen’s death. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who's running for president, was one of many who demanded that the Department of Justice step in to investigate the murder.
“Another one of our children has been murdered in a heinous and unprovoked way—the DOJ must investigate this hate crime immediately,” Booker said on Twitter.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, had similar demands, outright calling the attack a hate crime.
“Michael Adams walked up to a Black teen, Elijah Al-Amin, as he stood at the soda machine and slit his throat b/c he felt threatened by the music he listened to in his car,” Clarke said. "This murder is a hate crime that MUST be investigated by DOJ.”
Other users took to social media to share their condolences with Al-Amin’s family and vent their frustrations.
This isn’t the first time a teen of color has been killed for playing hip-hop music. In 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed by 45-year-old Michael Dunn for playing hip-hop music in his car at a gas station. Dunn was sentenced to life in prison in 2014. Davis’ mother, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, successfully ran for Congress in Georgia last November.
Cover: Police stock. A generic stock photo of police tape at a crime scene in Liverpool. Picture date: Monday June 19, 2017. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire URN:31757538 (Press Association via AP Images)