A Los Angeles prosecutor has accused a 69-year-old man of killing his son for being gay.
Shehada Issa was arrested Tuesday after police were called to his Los Angeles home and found the bodies of Amir Issa, 29, and his mother, whose name has not been released by authorities, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office told the Associated Press that Issa had threatened to kill his son in the past.
“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.
If convicted, Issa could serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
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 that Issa claims he armed himself after finding her body and then encountered his son, who threatened him with a knife, leading to a shooting.
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).
Issa, who is accused of using a shotgun in the killing, was charged Friday with one count of premeditated murder, the Times reported.
“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. Neighbours told the paper that the father and son were often overheard fighting.
Jim Key, a spokesman for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, told the Times that it’s not uncommon to hear about gay children who feel threatened by their parents.
“It’s horrific,” he said, referring to Issa’s killing. “Despite all the civil rights victories we’ve had in the last few years, we still live in a society where people face violence or even murder by their parents, simply by being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We see this all the time at the centre in the faces of the kids who come to us, all over the country, because they no longer feel safe in their home,” he said late Friday.
Parental attitudes about having a gay child continue to shift, but a sizeable number of American parents remain troubled by the idea.
A 2015 Pew Research poll found 39 percent of parents saying they would be at least somewhat upset if their child told them they were gay, down from 60 percent in 2004 and 89 percent in a 1985 Los Angeles Times survey.
Citing a Los Angeles County report, Christopher Argyros, manager of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Anti-Violence Project, said in a statement last year, that “one-third of the reported hate crimes occurred at the homes of the survivors.”
“Nearly every day we receive calls from people who are being harassed, threatened and even attacked where they live — usually by neighbours and apartment managers,” Argyros said. “It is remarkably common.”
Prosecutors said an investigation into the mother’s killing continues, according to the Daily News.
The AP reported that Issa is being held without bail pending and is scheduled to be arraigned on April 11.