People are demanding justice for a 17-year-old Black boy who was brutally murdered for listening to rap music at a gas station in Peoria, Arizona on July 4.
The hashtag #JusticeForElijah has gone viral as activists call for a hate crime investigation into Elijah Al-Amin’s stabbing death. Peoria Police said that 27-year-old Michael Adams stabbed the 17-year-old in the neck at a Circle K convenience store in the early hours of July 4.
Al-Amin was inside the store when Adams allegedly came up behind him and stabbed him in the back and slit his throat with a pocketknife. First responders arrived at the scene and attempted life-saving measures before transporting the boy to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, police said.
Police located Adams on 67th Avenue near the Circle K and took him into custody after he told an officer he was involved in the stabbing, The Arizona Republic reported. Officers also recovered a weapon. Peoria PD initially said that it was unclear why Adams had stabbed Al-Amin “as there does not appear to be any relation between the two and no known motive.”
According to the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC), Adams had just been released from the Arizona State Prison Complex in Yuma, Arizona, two days before the fatal stabbing. Adams was booked into a Maricopa County jail on suspicion of first degree premeditated murder. He is being held on a $1 million bond.
Police records filed in Superior Court cited by The Arizona Republic said that Adams told police that he felt threatened by the rap music Al-Amin was playing from his vehicle in the Circle K parking lot. Rap music allegedly made Adams feel “unsafe” because he had previously been attacked by people who listen to rap, he told police.
Adams told officers that people who listen to rap were a threat to him and the community. He added that he felt threatened by the music, not Al-Amin, so he wanted to be “proactive rather than reactive,” according to police records.
Jacie Cotterell, Adams’ attorney, portrayed the attack as “a failing on the part of the Department of Corrections,” according to NBC News. Cotterell claimed that despite showing signs of mental illness, “multiple prior felonies and a history of potentially unprovoked dangerous behavior,” Adams was released without any medication or access to support.
The attorney clarified that her client was given resources but was not “given means to get to those resources,” The Arizona Republic reported.
However, DOC spokesman Bill Lamoreaux told the newspaper that Adams “was not designated seriously mentally ill.” He said that Adams was given contacts for community services and provided transportation from the prison in Yuma to Maricopa County.
Al-Amin’s parents cast doubt that mental illness played a roll in their son’s murder. “I don’t believe mental illness has anything to do with it,” his mother, Serina Rides, told NBC News. “He was perfectly aware of what he was doing, and his whereabouts. There’s no way.”
Rahim Al-Amin, the boy’s father, told KPNX that Adams should have known “right from wrong” despite any mental illness. He added that Adams should have simply told his son to turn down the music.
Peoria Police said in a statement on July 4 that it was determined to investigate the gruesome murder.
“We are committed to detailed and complete investigations and we will determine why this violent act occurred,” Peoria Police Chief Art Miller said. “On behalf of the men and women of the Peoria Police Department, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim.”
Many are also calling for the killing to be treated as a hate crime and have used the hashtag #JusticeForElijah to share their outrage. The Human Rights Campaign demanded a “thorough investigation at the highest level” into the murder.
“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,” tweeted Kristen Clarke, the executive director president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
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.
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) July 8, 2019
“Young Black teens are being murdered in the US for wearing hoodies, playing with toys, listening to rap music, standing outside a store. This is a racial issue, not a mental health issue. These people are white supremacists and terrorists. Tired of this s— #JusticeForElijah,” tweeted one user under the name Davey.
“The man who murdered Elijah [Al-Amin] committed an act of anti-Black terrorism. He killed a teenager b/c he claimed the music the kid was listening to made him feel ‘unsafe.’ He is a violent racist and don’t you dare let him use mental illness as justification #JusticeForElijah,” added another by the name Elle Gato Maruska.
Adams is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on July 15.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.