A 17-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Peoria, Arizona, on Thursday by a man who told police he did it because the boy’s rap music made him feel “unsafe.”
In a convenience store just before 2 a.m. on July 4, Michael Paul Adams, 27, lunged at the teen and allegedly stabbed him in the back and slit his throat, according to a probable cause statement obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Adams told police he stabbed the boy because he heard him listening to rap music in his car before entering the store, and rap makes him feel “unsafe.” He also told officers that he had previously been “attacked by people ... who listen to rap music,” whom he identified as black, Latino, and Native American, according to court documents, and that he believes that “people who listen to rap music are a threat to him and the community.”
The teen, whom local media identified as 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin, collapsed outside the store while trying to flee his attacker and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Adams was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bond and is expected to appear in court July 15.
Just two days before the stabbing, Adams had been released from prison, according to Andrew Wilder, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Corrections. Adams had previously faced numerous charges, including aggravated assault of a correctional officer, assault with a weapon, marijuana violation, and theft.
His lawyer, Jacie Cotterell, told AZ Central that Adams had been homeless upon his release and did not have access to the mental health resources he needed, saying he was “set up for failure.”
“To be specific, he was given resources, he wasn’t given means to get to those resources,” Cotterell said.
Adams, however, was not designated “seriously mentally ill” and was given contact information for services in the community, “such as continuing care, housing, welfare as well as other community resources” before his release, Wilder said.
“The tragic death is terrible, and Mr. Adams will have to answer for his alleged actions,” Wilder added.
Elijah’s father, Rahim Al-Amin, told 12 News his son had “so many dreams,” and that he wanted to move to Seattle and work in hotel management. He would have turned 18 in two weeks.
Al-Amin said Elijah had finished work around 11:30 p.m. and went to his girlfriend’s house, but he told his son not to come home too late.
“Two o’clock came, three o’clock came, four o’clock came, I kept calling, calling, calling, texting, texting, texting, and I wasn’t getting a response,” he said. “I just had a feeling that something wasn’t right.”
Al-Amin only found out what happened hours later, when he went to Elijah’s girlfriend’s house and she told him. He found out his son had died after calling the hospital.
“You took a helluva kid,” he said. “He was a good kid, very good kid, always willing to help kids, help people in general.”
Elijah’s mother, Serina Rides, told Fox 10 Phoenix her son was a rising high school senior and had been working at Subway and Taco Bell to save up for a car.
“I got a call from [Elijah’s] father, saying, ‘Something’s wrong, this is not like Elijah, he’s not home yet,’” Rides said. “Out of the blue, somebody’s going to do this to you? I can’t understand.”
Rides said she thinks Adams and his lawyer are “hiding behind mental illness” as an excuse for racist motivations for the killing.
“I’m so numb and hurt to the core of my soul,” Rides said. “But I have to stay focused because I know that’s what he would want and to make sure justice is served for him.”
Many others on social media said they also believe mental illness is being used as an excuse for deadly racism.
“My last words to him was, ‘Elijah, I love you,’ [and] he said, ‘I love you too, mom,’” Rides told the Fox news station. “Those were his last words to me and I’m at peace with that.”