Activists on Twitter are calling for law enforcement and the media to recognize the murder of 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin, whose throat was slit outside a Peoria Circle K on the Fourth of July, as an act of racism.
The accused killer, Michael Paul Adams, a 27-year-old white man, admitted to slitting the boy’s throat and stabbing him with a pocketknife early Thursday morning after he heard him listening to rap music in his car in the Circle K parking lot at about 1:30 a.m., according to a booking sheet filed with Maricopa County Superior Court.
Adams later told Peoria police that rap music makes him “feel unsafe.” Adams claimed to police that because "rap music listeners" have attacked him the past, he decided to be “proactive rather than reactive."
Adams had just been released from Arizona State Prison Complex in Yuma on Tuesday after serving more than two years for aggravated assault and removal of a theft-detection device. His past criminal history in Maricopa County includes theft, disorderly conduct, assault with a weapon, and assault on a corrections officer, according to court records.
Police say that surveillance footage shows Adams followed Al-Amin, who is black, into the store, where he lunged at the boy. Cops found Adams near the store soon afterward, and he allegedly admitted he was involved in the crime.
Al-Amin was taken to the hospital, where he died within the hour.
Early media coverage of the murder of the teenager has primarily featured Adams’s lawyer, Jacie Cotterell, who blames a lack of available mental health services for his actions. “This is a disabled person and he’s been released into the world and left to fend for himself, two days later — this is where we are,” Cotterell told Good Evening Arizona.
Bill Lamoreaux, a spokesman with the Arizona Department of Corrections, told Phoenix New Times that Adams “was not designated seriously mentally ill.”
Today, the hashtag #JusticeforElijah is trending nationally, as prominent activists are calling on the police to recognize the killing as a hate crime and avoid using mental illness as a shield for white supremacy.
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#JusticeforElijah now has over 101,000 tweets on Twitter.
Adams will appear for a preliminary hearing on July 15, according to court records. Amanda Steele, public information officer for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said the office is reviewing the case before making a charging decision.
The Peoria Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.