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#JusticeforElijah posts call for Valley teen’s death to be treated as hate crime

PHOENIX — Posts on social media using the hashtag #JusticeforElijah are calling for the death of a black teen in a Phoenix suburb to be treated as a hate crime.

Michael Paul Adams, 27, who is white, is accused of stabbing 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin in the neck at a Circle K in Peoria on July 4. Al-Amin was taken to the hospital but died from his injuries.

Adams, who had been released from state prison two days before, reportedly told police he stabbed Al-Amin because the teen was listening to rap music, which he said made him feel threatened and unsafe.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said on Tuesday it has filed a first-degree murder charge against Adams, who faces life in prison or the death penalty.
There is no hate crime statute in Arizona, but a judge’s determination that bias towards the victim’s identity was a motivating factor can toughen sentencing.

The Arizona Council on American Islamic Relations agrees with the social media posts calling on the teen’s death to be investigated as a hate crime.

“We strongly believe that if the person had been any other race, any other skin color, this wouldn’t have happened,” Araceli Villanueva of CAIR said.

The Anti-Defamation League of Arizona is also calling for justice in this case.

“We call on law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and treat this incident as a potential bias-motivated crime,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Arizona regional director of ADL.

Sen. Corey Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted Monday that the Department of Justice should investigate the case and used the #JusticeforElijah hashtag.

KTAR News 92.3 FM legal analyst Monica Lindstrom said there hasn’t been enough evidence to prove this was a hate crime.

“All we have is the defendant saying that the reason why he did this was because Elijah was listening to rap music,” she said. “And that’s not usually a hate crime basis.”

Lindstrom added this could still be considered a hate crime if prosecutors “figure out that this defendant was a white supremacist or that there were other things that indicated he hated people who look like Elijah.”

Family members have told local media that Al-Amin would have turned 18 in two weeks and was looking forward to his last year in high school.

A modest makeshift memorial outside the convenience store at 67th and Peoria avenues where Al-Amin was stabbed was still erected on Tuesday, with a pair of white porcelain angels, fresh flowers and burning calendars – including one dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Catholic patron saint of Mexico.

Adams’ bond was maintained at $1 million. He had been freed July 2 after serving a 13-month sentence for aggravated assault.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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