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Civil rights activists are calling for a hate-crime investigation into the alleged killing of a black teenager by a white man just out of prison.
Michael Adams, 27, stabbed the 17-year-old in the neck at a Circle K convenience store in Peoria, Arizona, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Peoria Police Department said. The boy died at the hospital from his injuries shortly afterward.
Adams told investigators that he attacked the boy because he heard him listening to rap music in his car, according to the Arizona Republic. Adams reportedly said rap music makes him feel unsafe because he has been attacked by people in the past who listened to it.
NBC News could not independently verify this report.
The victim’s family, speaking to NBC Phoenix affiliate KPNX, identified the teen as Elijah Al-Amin.
Adams was charged with premeditated first-degree murder and appeared in a Maricopa County court the same day as the stabbing.
The alleged attack took place just two days after Adams was released from prison, where he had completed a sentence for aggravated assault and theft.
17 year-old Elijah Al-Amin was stabbed to death at a convenience store in Peoria, Arizona on July 4, 2019.Family of Elijah Al-Amin
In video obtained by KPNX, Adams’ attorney Jacie Cotterell argued in court that the attack was “a failing on the part of the Department of Corrections,” and said that despite symptoms of mental illness, “multiple prior felonies and a history of potentially unprovoked dangerous behavior,” Adams was released into the community without medication or support.
But civil rights advocates say Al-Amin’s killing should be treated as a hate crime.
“Michael Adams walked up to a Black teen, Elijah Al-Amin, as he stood at the soda machine and slit his throat b/c he felt threatened by the music he listened to in his car,” Kristen Clark, Executive Directive of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote on Twitter.
“We must call this what it is — a hate crime — and demand a thorough investigation at the highest level,” wrote the Human Rights Campaign.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey also called for the crime to be investigated by the Department of Justice.
In an interview with KPNX, the victim’s father Rahim Al-Amin said, “To follow him behind in a store and stab him? I don’t care what mental issues you have. You know right from wrong.”
“If you’re saying that his music is too loud, you’re going to kill him?” Rahim Al-Amin said. “I mean like, if he asked Elijah to turn it down, he would’ve probably turned it down. That’s just who Elijah was. ‘Oh my bad.’ That’s probably what he would’ve said,” he added.
The Arizona Department of Corrections told KPNX that Adams had not been classified as seriously mentally ill, and was provided with contact information for resources in the community after he was released from prison on July 2.
“Upon release, he was provided transportation from ASPC-Yuma to Maricopa County, after which he was no longer under the Department’s legal jurisdiction and the Department had no further legal authority over him,” Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said in a statement to KPNX.
“The tragic death is terrible, and Mr. Adams will have to answer for his alleged actions,” the spokesman said.