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A Blog by Tony Hicks

Meet Tony

In 1990, Tony Hicks came to live with his grandfather after a young life overexposed to violence, gangs, abuse, rejection, and rage. Ples was a role model, boundary, and passionate grandfather to Tony but the teenage years were difficult.  One afternoon in January 1995 Tony ran away from home to be with the wrong crowd. That night, after a day of drinking and drugs, Tony became part of a pizza delivery robbery. He was given a loaded handgun and told to shoot the driver who had refused to give up the pizzas.

Tony murdered twenty-year- old Tariq Khamisa, an innocent young man working his way through college.  At the age of fourteen, Tony became the youngest juvenile in California to be charged and convicted as an adult.  He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  Tony’s first parole hearing is scheduled for 2018.

From Tony – Gratitude

Greetings to all. I wanted to take the time to speak to my experience recently. I was extraordinarily fortunate to be granted suitability at my first parole hearing on November 28th.

I, of course, am grateful to be given a second chance at freedom and a chance to continue to atone for all of the damage I’ve done to the lives of the Khamisa family, as well as, so many others; never forgetting or shying away from the fact that where I was eventually allowed a second chance at life I denied Tariq that very same thing 24 years ago.

I will forever carry a great amount of shame and guilt for murdering Tariq, as well as for the mind state that I held onto long after that night. But where my immaturity caused me to run away from the shame and guilt of my actions, I am now motivated by the knowledge of the pain that I’ve caused and a sense of responsibility to make amends to those I’ve hurt and attempt to atone for the life I’ve taken.

I’ve been very fortunate that I have had support throughout my incarceration of my grandfather, Ples Felix, Azim and Tasreen Khamisa, as well as numerous members of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation who saw fit to visit me, write me or accept my phone calls from prison over the years providing me with hope, inspiration and words of encouragement as I struggled to grow up in this environment and cultivate maturity needed to make necessary changes in myself and reconcile the things I’ve done with the person that I am today and strive to be moving forward.

I understand how much of a blessing it is to have “support” in your life and I can speak directly to how the support I received, at times when I did not feel like I deserved it at all, kept me from slipping into the abyss of apathy and negativity that prison can be and from completely losing myself to my shame and anger or being swallowed up by my environment.

I would like to thank everyone that has helped me in every way great and small. The time you invested in me provided me with pieces to the puzzle that I was and helped me to slowly acquire the courage to gain insight into myself. I also want to thank everyone that sent a support letter to the board on my behalf. It was overwhelming to hear the numerous names of people, more names than I can list here, being read off in the room.

I can’t thank you all enough for expressing your faith in me and my ability to grow and change throughout this experience, as well as, your faith in restorative justice which is at the center of Tariq’s and my story. I hope to be able to thank you all in person one day but for now I hope these few words will do, thank you.

 

Sincerely,

Tony

Questions From Students

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.