Arizona law enforcement officials arrested a white man on suspicion of killing a 17-year-old black teenager, Elijah Al-Amin, who didn’t threaten him or even speak to him, in a Circle K gas station on the morning of July 4. What was Elijah doing that allegedly set the perpetrator off? He was listening to music.
Elijah had just finished working his shift at Subway a bit before midnight, visited his girlfriend, and then went to the Circle K around 2 a.m., according to KVOA Tucson. According to a review of court documents from the Arizona Republic, that’s when the suspect, a 27-year-old man who had been released from the Arizona State Prison Complex just two days before, heard Elijah playing rap music in his car in the parking lot. Elijah parked his car and went into the store. The suspect allegedly followed Elijah into the gas station, slit his throat and stabbed him with a pocketknife. Elijah ran out of the store, according to surveillance footage, and collapsed near gas tanks, where police personnel later performed CPR. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“He was a good kid,” Elijah’s father told KVOA. “He wanted to be hotel management, he wanted to move to Seattle, he wanted to move different places.” He added that Elijah had “so many dreams” he wanted to accomplish.
Shortly after, the police say they found a man covered in blood who admitted to killing Elijah.
The perpetrator claimed to police that rap music made him feel “unsafe,” according to records obtained by the Republic, because he said he had been attacked by people who listen to rap music in the past. He added another claim that he perceived people who listen to rap music as a threat to him and his community. He said he was trying to be “proactive rather than reactive.”
He has been booked into a Maricopa County jail on suspicion of first-degree premeditated murder and is being held on a $1 million bond.
The perpetrator's attorney, Jacie Cotterell, told the Republic that her client didn’t have access to proper mental health services, adding that the prison system “set [him] up for failure.”
“To be specific,” Cotterell told the Republic, “he was given resources, he wasn’t given means to get to those resources.” Cotterell was not immediately available for comment to MTV News.
Elijah's mother, Serina Rides, told Fox 10 Phoenix that she thinks they 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."
An Arizona Department of Corrections spokesperson told MTV News in a statement that he was “not designated seriously mentally ill,” saying that the suspect was “no longer under the Department’s legal jurisdiction and the Department had no further legal authority over him” after he was released from prison on Tuesday. "The tragic death is terrible, and Mr. Adams will have to answer for his alleged actions."
Elijah would have turned 18 years old in two weeks, according to the Root.
“You took a helluva kid,” Elijah’s dad told KVOA.