A 69-year-old man has been charged with one count of premeditated murder as a hate crime after prosecutors say he shot his son to death with a shotgun outside their North Hills, Los Angeles, home for being gay.
Shehada Khalil Issa was arrested Tuesday after Los Angeles police officers found his son’s body outside the home. Issa’s wife, later identified as 68-year-old Rabihah Issa, was found stabbed to death inside the residence.
The suspect told police he shot his son Amir in self-defense after he discovered his wife’s body in their house. An investigation into Issa’s wife’s death is ongoing.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Friday that Issa had previously threatened to kill his 29-year-old son for being gay.
“The murder was committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation and because of the defendant’s perception of that status, and the victims’ association with a person and a group of that status,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Officials did not elaborate. Police had no details Saturday on any of the alleged threats the father had made against his gay son.
Neighbors said Issa didn’t say much and kept to himself, and that Issa’s wife was rarely seen. One neighbor told the Los Angeles Times the young man had a troubled history and was involved in several incidents that led to police being called to the house. Francisco Gonzalez Jr. said the elder Issa once told him: “Drugs can mess up your life. My son had a great life, and then he did drugs and it all went away.”
Sgt. Greg Bruce told the Times the young man had been using the back of the house as an apartment, but his parents were seeking to sell the house and evict their son.
“Our detectives were involved in the eviction process to try to get him removed from the property,” he said. Bruce said he wasn’t aware of any disputes related to the son’s sexual orientation.
Dave Garcia is the policy director for L.A.’s LGBT Center. He said young people who are shunned by their families can get help at the center with housing and counseling. Garcia said recent anti-gay legislation in other states only makes matters worse for the entire LGBT community.
“It makes LGBT folks a lesser than, a second-class citizen. And when you can look at somebody and think of them as less human than you, then it is easier to commit atrocities toward those people,” he said.
Ronnie Veliz from the group Somos Familia Valle, is organizing a rally on Monday at 6 p.m. on the corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and Nordhoff Street in light of the tragedy.
“Your kids are your kids. They are the most beautiful creation you have,” he said. “There are going to be things that we are not going to agree on, but family saves lives, family doesn’t end lives.”
Issa is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at L.A. County Superior Court on April 11.
If convicted as charged, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. The case remains under investigation by the LAPD.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.