MEXICO CITY — Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of political activist Malcolm X, was found dead outside a Mexico City bar after a violent dispute over the bill, authorities said Friday. He was 28.
City prosecutors are investigating the attack that sent Shabazz to a nearby hospital with severe injuries. He died hours later on Thursday. U.S. officials confirmed that Shabazz was killed in Mexico City.
Shabazz family publicist Terrie Williams said the family would issue a statement later.
Labor activist Miguel Suarez, who was traveling with Shabazz, told The Associated Press that his friend was beaten up at a bar near Plaza Garibaldi, a downtown square that is home to Mexico City’s mariachis.
Plaza Garibaldi is popular with tourists, but the pair were at a bar across the street from the plaza in an area of rough dive bars tourists are warned against going to.
Suarez said he and Shabazz were lured to the bar on Wednesday night by a young woman who made conversation with the American in English. The Palace bar is on one of Mexico City’s busiest avenues.
“We were dancing with the girls and drinking,” said Suarez. Then the owner of the bar wanted them to pay a $1,200 bar tab, alleging that they should pay for music, drinks and the girls’ companionship.
“We pretty much got hassled,” he said. “A short dude came with a gun.”
Suarez said he was taken by the man to a separate room. Shabazz stayed in the hall. Suarez said he heard a violent commotion in the hall and escaped from the room and the bar altogether as he saw half-naked girls running away, picking up their skirts from the dance floor.
Minutes later, Suarez came back in a cab to look for Shabazz and found him on the ground outside the bar severely injured.
“He was in shock. His face was messed up,” said Suarez. “He was alive.”
“I grabbed him, and I called the cops,” said Suarez, who was recently deported from the United States.
He said he took Shabazz to a hospital but his friend died hours later of blunt-force injuries.
Suarez said Shabazz had traveled to Mexico to support him and his movement advocating for more rights for construction workers. He crossed the border from San Diego to Tijuana with Suarez’s mother and then the pair took a bus all the way to Mexico City.
“We were planning to go to Teotihuacan, to see the Aztec pyramids,” he said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell did not offer details on whether they are working with Mexican investigators.
“We’ve been in contact with family members and have been providing appropriate... assistance,” Ventrell said. “At their request, we have no further comment at this time.”
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.
In June 1997, Malcolm Shabazz, then 12, set a fire at his grandmother Betty Shabazz’s home. She died from severe burns, and he served four years in juvenile detention.
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.”
Shabazz also served time on a 2002 attempted robbery conviction, and was released in 2005. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief for smashing the window of a Yonkers doughnut shop.
In recent years, Shabazz said he was writing a memoir and traveling the United States 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.”
Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report from Washington.