A white Arizona man newly released from prison has been charged with first-degree murder in the grisly slaying of a black teenager whose rap music he claimed was menacing.
Police said the attack occurred on the Fourth of July around 1:45 a.m. in a Circle K convenience store in Peoria, a Phoenix suburb. The suspect, 27-year-old Michael Adams, told authorities that unprovoked, he stabbed 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin in the back with a pocket knife and slit his throat, The Washington Post reported.
Stumbling outside, Al-Amin fell to the ground where witnesses engaged in futile efforts to save him, a probable cause statement obtained by the Post said.
According to the statement, Adams told investigators the teen was playing rap music before heading into the store, which made him feel “unsafe.” He claimed to have been attacked by “blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans” in the past who were listening to the music genre, calling it a “threat to him and the community.”
Online records from the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office show Adams is being held on $1 million bond.
Two days before the killing, Adams was released from prison. He had been behind bars since October on charges that included aggravated assault, according to online records from the Arizona Department of Corrections
In Adams’ initial court appearance, his lawyer, Jacie Cotterell, argued that he has a history of mental illness and that the Arizona Department of Corrections offered neither medication nor a courtesy ride for him to seek health care upon his release, local CBS affiliate KPHO/KTVK reported.
County records showed Adams was not listed as “mentally disturbed” when he was arrested for Al_amin’s killing, according to a tweet Monday by Phoenix New Times reporter Hannah Critchfield. Also, a corrections department spokesperson told the Times he Adams “was not designated seriously mentally ill.”
Activists are weighing in about the case on social media using the hashtag #JusticeForElijah. The Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit political lobbying group which advocates for civil rights causes, is calling for the killing to be deemed a hate crime.
Adams’ next court date is set for Thursday.