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What motivates you to keep going?

My main motivation is Tariq. I know that I can never do anything to undo or make up for killing Tariq but I can live my life atoning for my actions; striving every day to make amends for the life I took and the lives I’ve traumatically impacted when I murdered Tariq and much later while I struggled to make the necessary changes in myself. My motivation now is to honor Tariq; acknowledging that I took his life away from him and living every day trying to make amends for that. I will forever carry the responsibility of what I’ve done to Tariq, his family and the community with me in my heart and at the fore front of my mind; the pain and suffering that I caused, the joy and time I stole. It propels me forward in this life constantly reminding me to be better than I was yesterday, to create peace where I can, to make better decisions striving to be the solution and not the problem.

I’m inspired by that fact that Azim and my grandfather have taken the tragedy that I caused and reshaped it in order to help others; not allowing Tariq’s death to be in vain. I aspire to live my life rather free or incarcerated with that same sense of purpose. I hope to honor, in word and deed, the man that I murdered 24 years ago.

What if you had one chance to talk to Tariq what would you say?

Tariq, there are no words to express how sorry I am for taking your life and putting your family through so much pain. I bear the responsibility for what happened that night on January 21 1995 not just for murdering you but for the role I played leading up to my attempting to rob you and ultimately shooting and killing you. I could have prevented this senseless tragedy in a number of ways: by speaking out against it when the idea was first introduced in that small apartment to rob a pizza man or refusing to return to the apartment with the bogus address that you would be sent to. I could have said no to the gun that was handed to me as I watched you from across the street unable to find an address that I knew didn’t exist. But I did none of these because my need to be accepted by my peers meant more to me, at that time, then your wellbeing or your life.

It’s sad as I look back on it, how I fought to hide my insecurities from the world instead of speaking to someone about them, getting help for them. I filtered my life through those insecurities and made decisions based on the distorted perception they provided me and one of those decisions ended your life, shattered the lives of all those that loved you and traumatized the community.

I can’t comprehend what you must have felt that night I ambushed you, turning around to see me standing there with a loaded gun pointing at you demanding the pizza that you had already returned to the back of the car of your car. You were courageous in that moment refusing to allow yourself to be robbed and for standing for what was right.

I often wonder if I would have your strength now? I know that I didn’t have it then. I was scared and weak inside trying to hide those feelings and others behind the mask that being a part of a gang provided me and the gun that I pointed at you. I wish I had been stronger then instead I acted out of my cowardness when I murdered you. I robbed you of the life you should have had, the love that you shared, the unlimited potential that you possess and I am extremely sorry for that. I don’t want to insult you by saying that I have the capacity to fully understand the impact on your family that your murder has had. I know that it has sent a ripple effect of confusion, pain and loss through their lives and it shames me now to know that I am responsible for not just your murder but the effect that your murder has had on so many others.

Your father Azim forgave me for killing you after I was arrested. He even came to visit me in prison 3 years after your death. The compassion that he has shown me is humbling. I also communicate with Tasreen often, she has opened her life up to me and I feel so blessed to know her. Through them I have learned more about you and through you then I’ve learned about myself.

You may not know this but I’ve begun to appreciate how your death has impacted so many young lives in a positive way. Through the foundation, named in your honor, Azim and my grandfather share our story to countless numbers of people providing a message of empathy, nonviolence, and forgiveness which continues to resonate for so many even after all these years.

I greatly admire the work that they are doing with the foundation. It is an honor for me to be able to be a part of the good work that is being done in your name. I know that I can never do enough to make right what I’ve done. Murdering you was a decision I would take back if I could, I would give you back to your family if I had that power. I am striving, every day, to be a better person then I was yesterday. Over the years I’ve resolved the insecurities that I filtered my life through. I hope to be of service to others in a positive way now. I will spend my life making amends for taking your life and those I have hurt along this journey, I will do it all in your name Tariq.

Are you okay?

I am well. I still struggle with what I’ve done to hurt the Khamisa family as well as the community as a whole when I murdered Tariq. I will always carry the shame of my actions with me as a reminder of the person I was and the destructive impact I had on so many people lives.

This has been a long journey for me, one I may not have been able to make without the love and support of my grandfather Ples Felix, the encouragement and reassurance of Azim and Tasreen Khamisa as well as other members of the TKF family. I am grateful to all of them for not giving up on hope for me even in those moments when I lacked hope for myself.

Today, as a 37 year old man, I am in a better place mentally and emotionally then I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve in time, been able to identify and address the emotional issues that I carried with me the night I murdered Tariq and through the early years of my incarceration. I can now speak honestly about my past and the person I was without trying to run from the painful reality of what I’ve done. Honesty was something that, I know now, I lacked when it came to myself as well as the courage to wield it. It was also the first step in the journey from who I was to the person I am today. I’m grateful to have been given this opportunity for change. I am mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually well but the shame that I bear for Tariq’s murder will always be there because I took from him the same opportunity for change and growth that I’ve been afforded. Thank you.

What do I think about TKF?

I’m so glad that something extraordinary good like TKF was able to come out of tragedy of my murdering Tariq. It’s not often seen that out of senseless and chaos purpose is found. Azim having the strength to see into his own pain, after losing his own son, and recognize a desire to stop others from having to go through what I had gone through is a beautiful love letter to Tariq’s life and an example of service that I greatly admire and hope to emulate one day.

I think the Tariq Khamisa foundation is a great organization that does a lot of good work speaking to kids about the importance of non-violence, forgiveness and peace. Their message is one that should be heard in every school and community in our nation because where reading, writing and arithmetic are important for a child’s future: empathy, compassion and personal responsibility through self-awareness are important for their development. I am impressed by the work that TKF does and I look forward to helping them make positive impacts in the lives of young people and the community.

What if you had one chance to talk to Tariq what would you say?

Tariq, there are no words to express how sorry I am for taking your life and putting your family through so much pain. I bear the responsibility for what happened that night on January 21 1995 not just for murdering you but for the role I played leading up to my attempting to rob you and ultimately shooting and killing you. I could have prevented this senseless tragedy in a number of ways: by speaking out against it when the idea was first introduced in that small apartment to rob a pizza man or refusing to return to the apartment with the bogus address that you would be sent to. I could have said no to the gun that was handed to me as I watched you from across the street unable to find an address that I knew didn’t exist. But I did none of these because my need to be accepted by my peers meant more to me, at that time, then your wellbeing or your life.

It’s sad as I look back on it, how I fought to hide my insecurities from the world instead of speaking to someone about them, getting help for them. I filtered my life through those insecurities and made decisions based on the distorted perception they provided me and one of those decisions ended your life, shattered the lives of all those that loved you and traumatized the community.

I can’t comprehend what you must have felt that night I ambushed you, turning around to see me standing there with a loaded gun pointing at you demanding the pizza that you had already returned to the back of the car of your car. You were courageous in that moment refusing to allow yourself to be robbed and for standing for what was right.

I often wonder if I would have your strength now? I know that I didn’t have it then. I was scared and weak inside trying to hide those feelings and others behind the mask that being a part of a gang provided me and the gun that I pointed at you. I wish I had been stronger then instead I acted out of my cowardness when I murdered you. I robbed you of the life you should have had, the love that you shared, the unlimited potential that you possess and I am extremely sorry for that. I don’t want to insult you by saying that I have the capacity to fully understand the impact on your family that your murder has had. I know that it has sent a ripple effect of confusion, pain and loss through their lives and it shames me now to know that I am responsible for not just your murder but the effect that your murder has had on so many others.

Your father Azim forgave me for killing you after I was arrested. He even came to visit me in prison 3 years after your death. The compassion that he has shown me is humbling. I also communicate with Tasreen often, she has opened her life up to me and I feel so blessed to know her. Through them I have learned more about you and through you then I’ve learned about myself.

You may not know this but I’ve begun to appreciate how your death has impacted so many young lives in a positive way. Through the foundation, named in your honor, Azim and my grandfather share our story to countless numbers of people providing a message of empathy, nonviolence, and forgiveness which continues to resonate for so many even after all these years.

I greatly admire the work that they are doing with the foundation. It is an honor for me to be able to be a part of the good work that is being done in your name. I know that I can never do enough to make right what I’ve done. Murdering you was a decision I would take back if I could, I would give you back to your family if I had that power. I am striving, every day, to be a better person then I was yesterday. Over the years I’ve resolved the insecurities that I filtered my life through. I hope to be of service to others in a positive way now. I will spend my life making amends for taking your life and those I have hurt along this journey, I will do it all in your name Tariq.

What are you plans for the future?

As of right now I hope to get back to take college courses through correspondence. I would really like to finish getting a degree if possible so I will have something relevant to fall back on regardless of how old I am once I’m released from prison. I hope to assist in the work that the Tariq Khamisa Foundation is doing. I look forward to being able to work directly with Tasreen, Azim, my grandfather, and the many great people that are dedicated to the foundation & the kids that they hope to impact.

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