Shehada Issa murdered his son for being gay, prosecutors say

Shehada Khalil Issa, arrested for the murder of his own son. "It's just my son acting crazy again," Issa told him. "It's the drugs. I called the cops, so I'm just waiting for them," he told a neighbor during a previous family incident.
Photo by Somos Familia Valle - San Fernando Valley LGBTQ
Photo by Somos Familia Valle – San Fernando Valley LGBTQ

BY TROY MASTERS  |  Dozens of people from the San Fernando Valley LGBT group Somos Familia Valle, gathered in peaceful protest in North Hills on Monday April 4 following the alleged murder of Amir Issa, a gay man who prosecutors say was killed by his own father for being gay.

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Prosecutors say Shehada Khalil Issa, 69, shot and killed his son outside their North Hills home.  Amir had gunshot wounds to the face and abdomen and was pronounced dead at the scene.  Amir’s mother, Rabihah Issa, 68 was also found dead inside the house. She had been stabbed, police said, and may have been dead for some time before her body was discovered.

The rally was held near the murder scene.

Los Angeles police officers arrested Issa after finding Amir’s body outside the residence. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office say Issa previously had threatened to kill his 29-year-old son because of his sexual orientation.  Neighbors suggested that a long-brewing mix of drugs, mental illness, homophobia and extreme family dysfunction contributed to the murder.

“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, according to the AP.

Issa, who used a shotgun in the killing, has been charged with one count of premeditated murder, The Los Angeles Times reported.

If convicted, Issa could serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Shehada Khalil Issa, arrested for the murder of his own son. "It's just my son acting crazy again," Issa told him. "It's the drugs. I called the cops, so I'm just waiting for them," he told a neighbor during a previous family incident.
Shehada Khalil Issa, arrested for the murder of his own son. “It’s just my son acting crazy again,” Issa told him. “It’s the drugs. I called the cops, so I’m just waiting for them,” he told a neighbor during a previous family incident.

Issa told police, according to the Daily News, that he didn’t kill his wife, but instead found her in their home’s bathroom, where she was already dead. The paper reported Issa claims he armed himself after finding her body. He says he then encountered his son who threatened him with a knife. He claims he shot him in self-defense.

Police found the son’s body in the backyard, according to NBC affiliate KNBC.

“The suspect made incriminating statements implicating himself in the death of (the son) and was arrested for murder,” Operations Valley Bureau homicide detective John Doerbecker told the Daily News. “He claimed (the son) was armed with a knife, and there was no knife to be found (there).

“It was a horrible family tragedy.”

Doerbecker added that the father and son had a history of conflict, with the son vandalizing the home and his parents attempting to kick him out of the house. Neighbors told the paper that the father and son were often overheard fighting.

That there was no knife found at the scene is a critical detail.

Amir Issa has had a troubled past, with bouts of violence and mental illness.

The Los Angeles Times found court records of a man with the name Amir Issa (whose parents live in Los Angeles) and who was convicted in San Diego of assault with a deadly weapon in 2010. Issa slashed his ex-boyfriend’s face with a knife. The ex-boyfriend was hospitalized. Issa fled to Las Vegas during jury deliberations but was sentenced to treatment at a state mental hospital and placed on three years’ probation. He was ordered to undergo mental health treatment.

Amir’s struggles have played out in public recently, too.

On Facebook just days before his death he posted that his family was “literally controlling me in my sleep,” that “they tell people to rape and molest me and make it seem like I enjoy that. If there is a devil or evil spirit, I truly believe it manifests itself in my family”

Amir also posted a video to his Facebook page  interrogating his parents about whether they had performed certain sex acts.

“That’s not appropriate for a child to ask his parents,” his mother says in the video. His father calls him a “pervert” and shouts “None of your relatives want to have anything to do with you.”

A sociologist at UCLA who asked to remain anonymous said the Facebook postings can’t be dismissed but do not in themselves mean he’s in the midst of a mental collapse. “He’s clearly distress — and so is the mother and father — but the videos alone do not inform beyond that.  The video and the posts certainly don’t let the father off the hook for murder.  It’s obvious the family dysfunction was profound.”

Organizers held the rally to advocate for family acceptance toward all LGBTQ children as well as to demand an end to discrimination and violence. 

The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Anti-Violence Project has highlighted a Los Angeles County report that “one-third of the reported hate crimes occurred at the homes of the survivors.”

“When one of these family tragedies happen, this sends a strong message that there’s a lot more work that we need to do, anti-violence work, work to educate our communities to rise above homophobia and transphobia and most importantly, to really address mental health issues,” rally organizer Ronnie Veliz told the A.P.

Issa is being held without bail on one count of premeditated murder as a hate crime. He’s scheduled to be arraigned at L.A. County Superior Court on April 11. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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