White Plains, NY -- Family members of Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, plan to head to Mexico, where he was killed Thursday during a reported robbery, a Shabazz family spiritual adviser told The Journal News Friday.
"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," said Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem.
The Shabazz family, he said, has long been private and is dealing with their grief. They have not yet released a formal statement, he said.
"We're just encouraging people to offer prayers for the family because that's the most important thing in this initial moment," he said.
The death of 28-year-old Shabazz was a shame, he said, as he was "trying to make his way as a young man in the world."
"He's really just a youngster, a very young man who was just struggling to get his life moving on a forward-looking track," Abdur-Rashid said. "He was always concerned about forging his own path. I'm just sad that things turned out the way they did."
Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz, raised her six daughters in Mount Vernon - including Malcolm Shabazz's mother, Qubilah - after the civil rights leader's 1965 assassination in Harlem.
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis has known the Shabazz family for decades and, for a time, lived near the family home on Fifth Street. He said the last time he saw Malcolm Shabazz was when the young man returned from prison several years ago after serving time for a robbery in Orange County.
"I feel sad and conflicted for them," Davis said of the family. "He could have been a very positive force."
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who has known Shabazz for several years, said Shabazz regularly spoke at Islamic centers around the country, educating children of immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia about Malcolm X and the civil rights movement.
"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," Walid said. "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 intentionally starting a fire that killed his grandmother, Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz, 63, in Yonkers in 1997. Betty Shabazz was seriously injured in the blaze and died from those injuries three weeks later, on June 23, 1997.
Malcolm was 12 years old at the time and, after pleading guilty to second-degree arson and second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to 18 months in an out-of-state juvenile facility.
Walid said Shabazz missed his grandmother and was working to get his life on track.
In 2002, at age 17, he was sentenced to three years in a New York state prison after taking part in a violent street robbery in Middletown, Orange County.
In November 2006, Shabazz, then 22, admitted to smashing the window of a Dunkin' Donuts in Yonkers the previous August. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal mischief.
According to his blog, which was last updated on May 2, Shabazz had been traveling the United States and elsewhere, speaking about the "struggles that confront this generation." According to the site, which features a number of personal photographs, Shabazz also was working on a book.
Shabazz, also according to his blog, had not completely steered clear of law enforcement, even in his later years. As recently as February, he had run-ins with an FBI counter-terrorism unit, which, he claimed, had been investigating him for some time.
Officials at the FBI on Thursday were unable to comment on Shabazz's death or alleged investigations into his actions.
Salim Adofo, 30, of Washington, D.C., the vice chair of the National Black United Front, who has known Shabazz for seven years, said Shabazz traveled the world helping those oppressed, regardless of race.
"He still always had to live in the shadow of his grandfather," Adofo said. "He still carried some of the same truths that his grandfather did and he tried to work with those who were oppressed. He traveled all over the world. Wherever people were suffering, he was there."
According to published reports, Shabazz had traveled to Mexico to meet with Miguel Suarez, the leader of an activist group known as RUMEC, an acronym for Revolutional United Mexicans in Combat. Suarez was deported to Mexico from California last month by federal immigration officials.
Walid said he hopes Mexican and U.S. authorities would "do a thorough investigation of the cause of Shabazz's death." He described Shabazz as a modest dresser who didn't have sizable financial resources.
"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.
Davis also said he was skeptical of the initial account of what happened to Shabazz.
"Knowing what I know about the workings of authorities, whether they're foreign or domestic, knowing he was high-profile, knowing he's creating enemies just by who he is, it's just very disquieting."