PEORIA, Ariz. (FOX 10) - The mother of a teen killed inside a Circle K has spoken exclusively to FOX 10. Police say the suspect felt threatened by rap music Elijah Al-Amin was listening to outside of the store. We spoke to Al-Amin's heartbroken mother who says there's no excuse for what happened to her son.
That excuse Serina Rides is talking about is mental illness. The suspect's attorney says he didn't have any medication when he was released from prison on Tuesday. But the mother of Al-Amin says the defense is just disguising a hate crime.
A mother's instinct kicked in early Thursday morning. For Rides, her world was rocked by the news. Peoria Police say 27-year-old Michael Adams walked up to her son, 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin, as he stood at the soda machine inside a Circle K. Then police say Adams slit the teen's throat from behind.
"I got a call from [Al-Amin'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."
According to detectives, Adams said he felt threatened by the rap music Al-Amin listened to in his car. Adams said anyone who listens to rap is a threat to him and the community. His attorney says he suffers from mental illness.
"There's no excuse for this," Rides said. "There's not at all, there's no excuse. I don't care that somebody's hiding behind mental illness, there's no excuse."
Many have paid their respects to Al-Amin at the place his life was taken. Rides says he worked at Subway and Taco Bell to save up for his own car. His senior year of high school approaching, a mother deeply proud of the young man he was becoming.
"My last words to him was, 'Elijah, I love you,' [and] he said, 'I love you too, mom,'" Rides said. "Those were his last words to me and I'm at peace with that.
But still, for Rides, minutes feel like hours as she tries to function without her son.
"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."
The Arizona Department of Corrections says officials never designated Adams as mentally ill. Court records show he's been arrested for attacking someone with a deadly weapon twice - both strangers. he also assaulted a correctional officer while in jail.