Citing his "bright light and boundless potential," the Shabazz family broke its silence Friday night regarding the death of Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of political activist Malcolm X, who was killed in an apparent tourist shakedown gone wrong in Mexico City Thursday.
The family thanked supporters for a "tremendous outpouring of love and respect" in a statement issued by family publicist Terrie Williams.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved El Hajj Malcolm El Shabazz," the statement said. "To all who knew him, he offered kindness, encouragement and hope for a better tomorrow. Although his bright light and boundless potential are gone from this life, we are grateful that he now rests in peace in the arms of his grandparents and the safety of God. We will miss him."
FRIEND: SHABAZZ BEATEN BEFORE DEATH
U.S. officials confirmed Shabazz was killed after Williams tweeted the news on behalf of the family late Thursday. A friend said Shabazz died after he was beaten up during a dispute over a bill at a Mexico City bar.
That friend, labor activist Miguel Suarez, said Shabazz died of his injuries at a hospital.
The 28-year-old Shabazz had gone with him and several other people to a bar near the plaza that is home to Mexico City's mariachis, Suarez said, after several young women who spoke English suggested they accompany them to the establishment. The bar is on one of Mexico City's busiest avenues, but in a section of rough dive bars tourists are warned against visiting.
Suarez said he and Shabazz were dancing with the women and drinking when the bar owner demanded they pay a $1,200 tab for "music, drinks and the girls' companionship," and a fight ensued.
"We pretty much got hassled," he said. "A short dude came with a gun."
The two men were briefly separated, and Suarez said the armed man took him to a backroom. He later found Shabazz injured outside the bar and took him to a hospital where he died on Thursday, Suarez said.
"He was in shock. His face was messed up," said Suarez. "He was alive."
Shabazz was born in 1984 to Qubilah Shabazz, one of six daughters of Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz. Qubilah was 4 years old when she saw her father shot to death as he delivered a speech in a Harlem ballroom in 1965.
He later expressed regret for his actions, telling The New York Times in 2003 that he would sit on his jail cot and ask for a sign of forgiveness from his dead grandmother.
"I just wanted her to know I was sorry and I wanted to know she accepted my apology, that I didn't mean it," he said. "But I would get no response, and I really wanted that response."
Malcolm Shabazz also served time for a 2002 attempted robbery in Middletown and was released in 2005. Then in 2006, he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief for smashing the window of a Yonkers doughnut shop.
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis said Malcolm Shabazz worked for him several years ago at Mount Vernon City Hall, and described him as mild-mannered and likable.
In recent years, Malcolm Shabazz said he was writing a memoir and traveling the country to speak out against youth violence. On his Facebook profile, he said he was attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
He proudly embraced his grandfather's legacy, describing himself on his Twitter page as "Grandson, name-sake and first male heir of the greatest revolutionary leader of the 20th century."
Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 in New York City.
With Karl de Vries