PHOENIX (AP) — Hundreds of people including a presidential candidate spoke out on Twitter this week after a 17-year-old black youth was killed at suburban convenience store by a white man who said he was threatened by the boy’s rap music.
Family members have told local media that Elijah Al-Amin would have turned 18 in two weeks and was looking forward to his last year in high school.
Friends and family hugged Monday at the Islamic Community Center in Tempe, where prayers for the youth were held before burial in Maricopa County.
A modest makeshift memorial outside the convenience store where Al-Amin was stabbed was still erected, with a pair of white porcelain angels, fresh flowers and burning calendars — including one dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Catholic patron saint of Mexico.
The Twitter hashtag #JusticeForElijah began trending over the Independence Day weekend after police in the suburban Phoenix city of Peoria arrested Michael Adams, 27, on suspicion of first-degree murder in the early morning killing. Adams had been released from state prison two days before.
“Another one of our children has been murdered in a heinous and unprovoked way_the DOJ must investigate this hate crime immediately,” Democratic candidate Cory Booker wrote on his Twitter account. “RIP Elijah. #JusticeForElijah.”
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) July 8, 2019
Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American civil rights activist from Brooklyn, New York, called the crime “outrageous” and said it recalled the 2012 killing of 17-year-old high school student Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida. “Rest in power Elijah Al-Amin,” she wrote.
Another repeat of Jordan Davis who was killed for playing his music in his car too loud and wouldn’t turn it down. This is so outrageous!!!! Rest in power Elijah Al-Amin. #JusticeForElijah https://t.co/pZaA7Ft86b
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) July 7, 2019
Michael Dunn, who is white, was later convicted of first-degree murder in that earlier killing, a shooting that erupted during an argument about loud music coming from a car carrying Davis and three other black teenagers.
In the Arizona attack, first responders discovered Al-Amin collapsed outside the Peoria Circle K store’s gas pumps and took him to a hospital, where he died. Several people inside the store had watched as Al-Amin was stabbed in the throat and the back before he ran outside.
Officers found Adams nearby with a pocket knife and blood on his body. Adams told them he had felt threatened by the rap music coming from Al-Amin’s vehicle.
Adams’ attorney, Jacie Cotterell, told the judge at his initial appearance hearing that her client was mentally ill and released without any medication, “no holdover meds, no way to care for himself.”
Cotterell said during the videotaped court hearing that “this is a failing on the part of the (Arizona) Department of Corrections.”
Adam’s bond was maintained at $1 million. He had been freed July 2 after serving a 13-month sentence for aggravated assault.
Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said in a statement that “the tragic death is terrible, and Mr. Adams will have to answer for his alleged actions.”
The statement said that when Adams was released he “was not designated seriously mentally ill” and that once the department transported him from the state prison complex in Yuma where he had served his sentence to Maricopa County it “had no further legal authority over him.”
Many of the people commenting on Twitter said that claims about Adams’ mental illness should not be used to explain away what they believe was a hate crime.
There is no hate crime statute in Arizona, but a judge’s determination that a hate crime has occurred can toughen sentencing.
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