San Diego

Father To Vouch for Son's Killer's Rehabilitation at Parole Hearing

Tony Hicks, 14 at the time, was the youngest person ever sentenced for murder as an adult in California.

A father's forgiveness may be the very thing that helps free his son's killer.

Azim Khamisa's son Tariq was murdered by teenage gang member Tony Hicks, the youngest person ever sentenced for murder as an adult in California.

His first parole hearing is Wednesday, and Azim will be one of the people speaking for him.

Almost 24 years ago, Tariq came to a fictitious address on Louisiana Street in North Park to deliver a pizza. Little did he know that delivery order was a set-up.

Then just 14-years-old, Tony Hicks and two other teen gang members shot and killed Tariq after he refused to hand over the pizza or his cash.

Six years later was the beginning of a journey to reconciliation perhaps like no other.

The death or Azim’s son at the hands of Ples Felix's grandson, Tony Hicks, brought Azim and Ples together in an uncommon bond.

"There were victims at both ends of the gun. The enemy wasn't the 14-year-old that killed my son, rather the societal forces that force many young men," Azim said.

The tragedy and the ensuing bond Azim and Ples developed led them to found the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, which has, over the last 23 years, taught thousands of kids to turn away from violence and instead embrace responsibility, education and leadership.

"I can't bring my son back but what I can do is make sure other young people don't end up dead like my son or in prison like [Hicks]," Azim said.

Tony Hicks was the youngest person in the state to be given 25 years to life in prison for murder. Now 38-years old, Hicks goes before the parole board for the first time on Wednesday.

Over the phone, Hick's attorney Laura Sheppard said his chance of release is good.

"He has a reason to succeed when he gets out. He has far more than the majority of lifers,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard shared with NBC 7 a recommendation for release letter from sentencing Judge Joan Weber.

In another letter, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Dumanis wrote that "Hicks has been punished enough.”

Azim will speak at the hearing, and Ples will be at his side by request.

Having a defendant's relative present is highly unusual.

"Mr. Felix has a very peaceful presence. He is a very spiritual man so I think he is really trusting in God," Sheppard said.

Azim wants to assure the board that Hicks is rehabilitated and that there is a job at the Tariq Khamisa Foundation waiting for him.

"He will be a lot more useful working with the Tariq Khamisa foundation than spending more years in a very negative environment," Azim said.

Azim says there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't miss his son, but he sees hope in forgiveness.

While it won't bring back Tariq, Azim's message of peace may save someone else's son.

The hearing will take place at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo where Hicks has served for the past two years.

It is expected to last some six hours, but the parole board will make its recommendation that day.

Governor-elect Gavin Newsom will have 30 days to review the decision.

Hick's Attorney says statewide, only 1 percent of prisoners sentenced to life terms and given release reoffend.

The recidivism rate for paroled prisoners with lesser sentences is 60 percent.

Contact Us