PHOENIX (Reuters) - A newly released ex-convict who stabbed a teenager to death at an Arizona convenience store on Independence Day, later telling police he had felt threatened by the boy’s rap music, was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday.
The stabbing of 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria recalled the killing three years earlier of a black Florida teenager who was shot by white man during an argument over his music. Al-Amin was described by the New York Times as multiracial.
“This case is still under investigation and prosecutors are committed to pursuing the appropriate charges in this case to secure justice for the victim and his family,” the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said in announcing the charges against Michael Paul Adams.
Adams, 27, could be eligible for a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder in the case.
It was not immediately clear if Adams, who was released from prison two days before the stabbing, had retained a criminal defense attorney. It was not disclosed what crime he had committed previously.
He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance on July 15.
According to a probable cause statement filed by a Peoria Police detective, a witness at the Circle K convenience store said that Adams walked up behind Al-Amin as he stood by a soda machine, grabbed him by the neck and stabbed him without provocation.
A second witness said that he saw the suspect slit Al-Amin’s throat, the police detective said in his report. Surveillance footage captured the attack, after which the teen can be seen running from the store, bleeding profusely, before he collapses.
Al-Amin later died at a local hospital. Doctors said his injuries included a severed jugular vein and carotid artery as well as separate puncture wounds.
According to the statement, Adams confessed to stabbing Al-Amin and said that he had done so because the victim’s rap music made him feel unsafe.
Maricopa County prosecutors said that under Arizona law the stabbing could be considered a hate crime for sentencing purposes if Adams were convicted, which would be decided later.
Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall