Convicted killer granted parole after family of 1995 murder vict - The CW San Diego - News 8

Convicted killer granted parole after family of 1995 murder victim pleads for his release

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Tony Hicks and the victims family Tony Hicks and the victims family

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — A man who shot and killed a San Diego pizza delivery man more than 20 years ago was granted parole on Wednesday.

Tony Hicks was just 14 years old when he pleaded guilty to first degree murder in the death of Tariq Khamisa.

“We are totally elated. Tony won parole. Wow!” said Azim Khamisa just minutes after the parole board voted to release his son's killer Tony Hicks.

"It's been a long road – 24 years in January - but the result is absolutely marvelous,” said Khamisa.

Alongside him was Hick's attorney as well as Hick's grandfather.

The families have a bond rarely seen in cases like this.

Tariq Khamisa was just 20 years old when he was murdered by a then 14-year-old Hicks back in 1995.

Tariq, a San Diego State student, was out delivering pizza when Hicks says an 18-year-old fellow gang member gave him a gun and told him to shoot.

Hicks, now 37, was the first youth in California to be tried as an adult under a law adopted in 1995 that allowed juveniles as young as 14 to be tried as adults for murder. Hicks pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Tariq and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Hicks has served 23 years behind bars after pleading guilty and asking for forgiveness.

Tariq's family granted his request for forgiveness.

In fact, for years, they've been working with Hicks’ family fighting for his release.

They've also visited schools all over spreading an anti-violence message through the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

After starting the foundation Azim reached out to Tony Hicks' grandfather, Ples Felix, in the spirit of forgiveness. Since the beginning, TKF has focused its attention on the same age group Tony Hicks was in when he committed the crime. The foundation has provided mentoring to 2,400 students and stands ready to help more.

Via Skype Tuesday, Tariq's father explained the motivation behind his actions.

"I recognized that the enemy was not the 14-year-old who killed my son because it was random. The enemy really was societal forces,” Azim said.

With Hicks’ release now approved, Azim wants him to help the foundation continue its mission saying he's confident Hicks has changed and will be an asset to society.

"This particular response of forgiveness is a win for Tariq, it’s a win for me and my family, and it's a win for my community,” Azim said.

In preparation for his second chance at freedom, Hicks has earned his GED and college credits toward an associate's degree, according to TKF. He has also been writing a blog for TKF's website, answering student questions.

Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391, which overturned the law Hicks was tried under, eliminating the ability to try a defendant under the age of 16 as an adult for any violent crime.

The governor still has to sign off on the release, but that won't happen for at least four months.

Meanwhile, San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan who was at the hearing released the following statement:

The State Board of Parole today granted parole to Tony Hicks, 38, who killed 20-year old Tariq Khamisa during an attempted robbery in 1995. Khamisa was attempting to deliver a pizza to a bogus address given by the inmate and his accomplices when he was shot and killed by Hicks. Hicks, who was 14 years old at the time, was tried as an adult, pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison. At the request of the victim's family, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan attended Hicks' parole hearing today.

The Parole Board hearing was held this morning at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California and lasted about six hours. The Board announced its decision after deliberating for about an hour.

This was Hicks' first parole hearing which included a discussion of his criminal record, psychiatric factors and parole plans. During his time in prison, Hicks was cited for numerous violations for misconduct including an incident in 2002 when he attacked a correctional officer with a homemade knife.

The District Attorney's Office did not formally oppose or favor parole, but provided the Board with a lengthy letter outlining key considerations and public safety concerns. Typically, prosecutors formally oppose parole at an inmate's first hearing, especially if that person has committed a violent act in prison.

"The case is unique and compelling. As an adult, Mr. Hicks committed a serious, violent offense during his incarceration several years after the murder," DA Summer Stephan said. "We also consider his young age at the time of the murder, the fact that he has been free of violations in prison for two years, and the support he has waiting for him on the outside, which are all factors in his favor. Ultimately, the parole board weighed all those factors and made a decision based on whether or not he poses a unreasonable, current threat to public safety. I respect the board's decision as well as the views of the victim's family who have turned their personal tragedy into a force for good. It's my sincere hope that Mr. Hicks will become a productive member of the community upon his release."

Following the murder, Khamisa's father, Azim Khamisa and Hicks' grandfather, Ples Felix, formed the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, an organization devoted to forgiveness and stopping gang violence. Khamisa's family members and Felix have been advocating for Hicks to be released.

The Governor's Office will receive the case within 120 days for review. If the Governor takes no action, Hicks will be released in 2019.

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