Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of civil rights icon Malcolm X, died in Mexico, a family friend confirmed Thursday.
The 28-year-old was reportedly killed in his hotel room during a robbery. As of Friday afternoon, the Shabazz family had yet to release a formal statement about the death and an imam close to the family told reporters that they were enroute to Mexico Friday to identify the body and handle other affairs.
"I was told by the family that they're in the process of trying to get down to Mexico, so they can identify his remains and claim them," Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem told the Journal News. "We're just encouraging people to offer prayers for the family because that's the most important thing in this initial moment."
Shabazz allegedly traveled to Mexico to meet with Miguel Suarez, the leader of the Revolutional United Mexicans in Combat (RUMEC), a grassroots labor organization. A group member told reporters that Shabazz was killed during a robbery and that he was a staunch supporter of the cause.
“He was murdered. He was in Mexico City and I believe they attempted to rob him and he didnt allow it, so they beat him to death and he died on his way to the hospital,” RUMEC member Juan Ruiz told Talking Points Memo. “This is all I can confirm, everything else is under investigation for the meantime.”
At the time of his death, Shabazz was a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and had begun traveling and speaking about the "struggles that confront this generation." He was also writing two books.
"He was a young man who was fighting his own past and trying to get himself together, and he was a very young and rising activist," Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told the paper. "By him striving to turn his life around, he was a huge influence on hundreds if not thousands of Muslims in our country."
Shabazz is known for setting the house fire that that killed his grandmother, civil rights activist and widow of Malcolm X Betty Shabazz. In 1997, at age 12, Shabazz pleaded guilty to intentionally setting the fire and spent four years in juvenile detention. Shabazz later served three years in a New York state prison, at age 17, for taking part in a robbery.
In Feburary, Shabazz was arrested by the FBI as he was travelling to Iran to attend a conference. The purpose of that detention was never made clear.
Walid and others who knew Shabazz seem to display skepticism about the circumstances surrounding his death.
"I'm shocked about the passing of Malcolm and I find it very strange, in fact unlikely, that he would be beaten to death simply because of a robbery," Walid said.
Shabazz is survived by two daughters, his mother and several aunts.
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(Photo: Mike Segar / Reuters)