Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Parole Granted For Man Who Was 14 When He Killed Student in San Diego

Tasreen Khamisa and Azim Khamisa pose for a photo with Tony Hicks, center, in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Tariq Khamisa Foundation
Tasreen Khamisa and Azim Khamisa pose for a photo with Tony Hicks, center, in this undated photo.
Parole Granted For Man Who Was 14 When He Killed Student in San Diego
Parole Granted For Man Who Was 14 When He Killed Student in San Diego GUEST: Ples Felix, Tony Hicks' grandfather

Parole has been granted to Tony Hicks who served 24 years for the murder of Tariq Kahmisa in San Diego back in 1995 the murder and its aftermath created an unlikely bond between Tariq father and Tony Hicks grandfather. Together they became the center of the Tariqu Kahmisa foundation dedicated to steering kids away from gangs and violence. Terry ix. father Azeem Kahmisa was at Wednesday's parole hearing and said he was elated at the result. TONY Hicks was a 14 year old gang member at the time of the shooting. He became one of the youngest offenders charged as an adult and sentenced to 25 years to life. Now he's a 38 year old man who was on track to be given a second chance. Joining me is Tony Hicks grandfather plez Felix unpleased welcome to the show. Thank you very much. Glad to be with you. Now I heard there were many tears of joy shed in the courtroom when the parole board made its decision. I'm still up above the ground right now with emotion about the the outcome of the decisions being made. We were all very hopeful very prayerful but we had no idea how it might turn out. We were hoping for the best. All of us. I'm sure the whole room was joined at the point of the season being presented. There was a there was an audible gasp. There was an audible. I think it was hard for us to kind of maintain our our to not stand up and cheer but we maintain the decorum of the room and try to be properly appropriate for the setting as possible. But it was it was quite an exciting time and I know that all of us overwhelmed about the prospect of Tony coming out and joining us and the three camisa foundation saving children's lives. Was Tony emotional too. Oh gee whiz. Tony was emotional throughout the entire proceeding. And it actually reflected his true heart and true feeling and to experience about the journey that he's been on all these years since he married when he was only a 14 year old boy and was sent to prison at age 16. So for him the entire hearing experience was one filled with emotion. And it was driven by his sincere intention to express himself very clearly very honestly and certainly with all the integrity he could muster about the changes and the improvements and his preparedness for coming out of prison and joining us in society and working with them. Can you share with us some of the things your grandson told the members of the parole board. I can share that with all of the clarity that my grandson could muster. He he once again apologized and sought forgiveness and expressed gratitude for the forgiveness extended by the camisa family for. Tarek and he expressed his condolences and took responsibility for some of the ripple effect that took place after he murdered Tarik specifically addressing the suicide tarts fiance committed sometime after Topix death. And that has affected Toni as well because he understood that there was a concentric circle of trauma and damage and harm done by his single act of shooting and killing time. That affected much more than just Tarik and he it affected the state of the time soundly that that Tony's family the fact that the community. So Tony withdrew very very specifically apologizing to each and every member of that his act affected and traumatized and then he certainly expressed his commitment to work very hard to receive the support of the community certainly coming out of his family coming out of the foundation and certainly community members and accepting that support to see to it that he stays focused he stays healthy and he stays working hard to become a contributing member of society and particularly that he really wants to work with children in a way that prevents them from being on the path and committing the kind of behavior he was committed to at age 14. And what happens now. What's the procedure that needs to be followed before Tony is released from prison. Well my understanding is that now the the parole board will submit all of its findings the paperwork for Tony's parole. They have within 120 days to finalize his release. And then of course at some point when he is released he'll be released to San Diego County to one of the transitionary housing programs to have the San Diego County. He will be assigned a parole officer to whom he will have to be responsive on a daily basis if not a momentarily moment to moment basis but that will be his center point of focus and attention his parole officer being in the transitional housing setting until the parole officer feels as though Tony is proper to transition into kind of living with me because that's where I anticipated Tony will be living with me in San Diego County where I live and let that transition takes place. Then we will see how we are able to cooperate. Tony slowly but surely into presenting on behalf of the camisa foundation in front of children because we know that there are many children who have many questions of Tony and they would like to have answers directly from him. He has actually set up and has been engaging with the tree Fondation and responding to some of the letters and inquiry that children have raised with him saw. He's been working with Tessmann Camisa and setting up an opportunity to communicate with children. So we anticipate that that communication will continue once he's released from prison more personally more upfront more in person with Mr. Camisa and that can be his foundation and doing our assemblies at schools all over the county and certainly we'd like to be able to see to it that much Tony's able to get permission to leave the state that we can do programs in other parts of the country as well. Of course incoming Governor Gavin Newsom has to sign off on this parole. Do you have any idea how he feels about this case. No I I have no idea about the incoming governor's thoughts about this case. I totally understand that. Like Governor Brown Gavin Newsom is a person who is very people oriented. He's very community oriented. And I've always preceded him to be a person who is supportive of peaceful efforts on behalf of our community on behalf of our community. And I would think that given the work that can be said foundation does our communities and having Tony as an additional asset in the organization working with children I would think that Gavin Newsom would be in support of that. I've been speaking with Felix about the parole granted to his grandson Tony Hicks plez. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you so much.

The state Board of Parole Wednesday granted parole for a onetime gang member who was 14 when he shot and killed a 20-year-old college student and pizza deliveryman during an attempted robbery in San Diego in 1995.

The father and sister of the victim traveled to the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo in support of parole for Tony Hicks, who 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.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill 1391, which eliminates the ability to try a defendant under the age of 16 as an adult for any violent crime. Those convicted under the new law will be held in locked juvenile facilities instead of adult prisons.


Hicks, now 38, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Tariq Khamisa and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He has served 23 years.

RELATED: After Forgiving Son’s Young Killer, Father Advocated For His Parole Two Decades Later

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

According to the District Attorney's Office, Hicks — during his two-plus decades years in prison — was cited for numerous violations for misconduct, including attacking a correctional officer with a homemade knife in 2002.

An portrait of Tariq Khamisa (far left) sits on a table in the living room of his father's La Jolla home, Nov. 26, 2018.
Tarryn Mento
An portrait of Tariq Khamisa (far left) sits on a table in the living room of his father's La Jolla home, Nov. 26, 2018.

"This case is unique and compelling," said District Attorney Summer Stephan, who also traveled to the prison for the parole hearing. "As an adult, Mr. Hicks committed a serious, violent offense during his incarceration several years after the murder. 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 an unreasonable, current threat to public safety," Stephan said. "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."

The parole board's decision will be subject to review by the governor, who will have 30 days to reject or accept it.

After the murder, the victim's father, Azim Khamisa, founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation and reached out to Hicks' grandfather, Ples Felix, who accompanied him and his daughter to the parole hearing.

"We are totally elated (that) Tony was paroled," Khamisa said, as he stood in front of the prison.

Before the hearing, he said: "If this law (SB 1391) had been in effect in 1995, Tony would have been prosecuted in Juvenile Court and paroled many years ago. The other two individuals involved in the crime were sentenced in Juvenile Court. Tony made a mistake. He has atoned for it in many ways. He has paid his debt to society. It is time for him to be released."

Tasreen Khamisa also supported the release of her brother's killer. She said that when he was 16, an immature Hicks was incarcerated with some of the most hardened adult offenders in the state at Folsom Prison.

She said the plan is "to bring Tony onto the staff at TKF where he can share his powerful message about the consequences of violence and the benefits of restorative justice with thousands of youth. The bottom line is that our kids need Tony. He will have a powerful voice in helping stop youth violence."

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

The Tariq Khamisa Foundation "is dedicated to teaching and inspiring forgiveness, hope and peace in youth and setting them on a path towards opportunity," according to the San Diego nonprofit's mission statement.