From Tragedy to Transformation: Tony Hicks and Azim Khamisa’s Journey Against Youth Violence


Tony Hicks, who at 14 became California’s youngest person charged and convicted as an adult for killing San Diego pizza deliveryman Tariq Khamisa in 1995, now collaborates with his victim’s father, Azim Khamisa, to steer teens away from violence.

Azim Khamisa reflected, “Sometimes in deep trauma there is a spot of clarity. I realized that Tony was not my enemy.” Nine months after his son’s tragic death, Khamisa founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, dedicated to dissuading teens from gang involvement, crime, and violence.

Despite initial resistance over five years, Hicks eventually embraced Khamisa’s outreach efforts while still incarcerated, acknowledging, “I didn’t feel like I was ready… I didn’t feel like I deserved to be forgiven for what I had done.” Since his release from prison in 2019 after serving 24 years, Hicks has served on the foundation’s board.

Azim Khamisa has faced opposition to his forgiveness of Hicks, countering calls for harsh punishment with a question: “But how does that improve society?”

In its 29-year history, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation has impacted approximately two million teens through initiatives featuring Azim Khamisa and Tony Hicks jointly addressing audiences, promoting healing and combating youth violence, as stated on the foundation’s website.

Natasha Zouves
Natasha Zouves
Investigative Correspondent. Natasha was honored as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, and holds a master's from Johns Hopkins in Biotechnology Enterprise & Entrepreneurship. She was previously a news anchor and reporter for KGO-TV (ABC7 News) in San Francisco, California.

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