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Mesa, Arizona, Sep 15, 2001

Balbir Singh Sodhi (1949 - September 15, 2001) was a Mesa, Arizona, gas station owner who was murdered in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. On September 15, 2001, he was shot five times by a gunman (Frank Roque) and died instantly.

After shooting Balbir Singh Sodhi, Roque drove to a home that he'd sold to an Afghan family near 32nd Street and Broadway Road and opened fire, but missed the people inside.

Then, he drove around the corner to a convenience store at Val Vista Drive and Broadway Road where a man of Lebanese descent was working. He fired shots through the window of the store but missed the man also.

Mesa police arrested Roque a few hours later as he yelled that he was a patriot and an American.

Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49, of Mesa, an immigrant from India, wore a turban as expression of his Sikh faith and was shot because Roque mistakenly identified him as Middle Eastern.

Monday's high court decision upheld the jury's convictions, despite acknowledging misconduct on the part of prosecutors, but commuted the jury's death sentence.

Such commutations are rare in Arizona. Later the death sentence was transformed to life in prison for Rogue.

Rana Singh Sodhi, 39 youngest brother of Balbir Singh said he hopes people understand that the life sentence still shows that society will not tolerate hate crimes and the murders of innocent people.

Balbir Singh was known by friends and neighbors as a quiet, gentle man. He practiced the Sikh values of help other and share with others. Children told reporters how Balbir Singh would let them buy candy from his store, even if they didn’t have enough money. The homeless shed tears as they recounted tales of his generosity to them. And neighbors came by the hundreds with candles, flowers, pictures and words to honor his noble memory. The neighborhood response to Balbir Singh’s passing has galvanized the entire Phoenix community.

In May 2003, another Arizona Sikh was shot in in Phoenix. Avtar Singh Cheira was wounded in the stomach and groin by a group of men in a pickup truck who shouted: "Go back to where you belong."

Balbir Singh Sodhi memorial page on SikhNet


September 11 revenge killer to die for shooting Sikh
October 11, 2003
Source: The Guardian

A man has been sentenced to death in Arizona for killing a Sikh in the belief that he was an Arab while on a shooting spree intended to avenge the September 11 attacks.

The murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, an immigrant from India and the owner of a petrol station, was the first and one of the worst of the reprisal attacks across the US after September 11 2001.

Visit The Guardian for full story

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