Phoenix — An Arizona prosecutor said a grand jury has returned an indictment charging a white man with first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a black youth for playing rap music he said he thought was threatening. Michael Adams faces charges in the July 4 killing of 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin at a convenience store in suburban Phoenix, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Thursday.
According to CBS affiliate KPHO, Elijah Al-Amin had stopped by a Circle K in Peoria in the early hours of July 4. Police said the teen was standing by a soda machine when Adams stabbed him in the back and slit his throat. Adams reportedly told police he attacked the boy because Elijah was listening to rap music.
At a press conference on Thursday, Montgomery did not directly address claims by Adams' attorney that his client is mentally ill. He also didn't comment on how Adams' release from prison on a prior assault conviction was handled. The release occurred two days before the convenience store stabbing.
Montgomery sought to clarify that Arizona does not have a statute on hate crime, but noted stiffer penalties can be imposed at sentencing.
"Arizona has chosen to keep it simple and straightforward for prosecutors to be able to convict someone of having committed a crime and then are able to use evidence of bias to increase the penalty," Montgomery said.
"What makes this offense so tragic is we had a 17-year-old who did absolutely nothing. As a father myself of a 16-year-old, I can't imagine what this young man's family is going through and it is a significant loss to our community," Montgomery said.
Al-Amin's mother, Serina Rides, said her son was going to be a senior at Apollo High School. She also said he was in ROTC and wanted to join the Marines. "The world really missed out because that man took my son's life," said Rides.