Malcolm Shabazz, then 14, is led in handcuffs from Family Court in Yonkers, N.Y., on Thursday July 29, 1999.(Photo: Stephen Chernin, AP)
(USA TODAY) -- Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, was killed in Mexico on Thursday, a close family friend said.
Shabazz, 28, is perhaps most widely known for intentionally starting a fire that killed his grandmother, Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz, 63, in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1997.
According to media reports, Shabazz died of injuries he suffered while being robbed.
Asked about Shabazz's death, Esperanca Tilghman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, would confirm only that a U.S. citizen died in Mexico City.
"We have been in contact with family members and at their request we have no further comment at this time," she said.
Terrie M. Williams, a Mount Vernon native who now runs the Terrie Williams Agency in New York City, has worked closely with the Shabazz family and confirmed the man's death.
"I'm confirming, per the U.S. Embassy, on behalf of the family, the tragic death of Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X," she wrote on her Facebook and Twitter accounts. "Statement from family to come."
Reached at her agency, Williams told The Journal News she had worked with Shabazz for a number of years.
"I mentored him and he did a lot of work with us in terms of speaking to young people," Williams said. "He was a very, very powerful brother."
Dr. Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X, speaks in Albuquerque, N.M., in this January 1997 file photo.(Photo: Patrick J. Cunningham, AP)
Betty Shabazz was living in Yonkers when her grandson set fire to the apartment in which she was sleeping. She 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.
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.
Williams could not say when the Shabazz family would release their statement and was unable to provide further details of the circumstances surrounding the man's death.