R.I.P Balbir Singh Sodhi 1949-2001

Four years ago today, Sikh gas station owner Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot to death in Mesa, Arizona by a man named Frank Roque.

On Sept. 15, Balbir drove to Costco, searching for an American flag to display at the gas station. On his way out, he donated $75 to the Sept.11 victims’ fund. At 2:45pm, Balbir was stooped outside the gas station, planting flowers, when the shots rang out. Leaving Balbir drenched in a pool of blood, his assailant sped off, tires squealing, in a pickup truck. [cite]

This killing was both pre-meditated and racially motivated. As the prosecution pointed out, “Roque had practiced shooting and reloading before killing Sodhi.” When he was arrested the next day, Roque brazenly wrapped himself in the flag:

When police arrived at Roque’s mobile home he yelled, ‘I’m an American patriot, arrest me and let the terrorist go wild!’ [cite]

Roque also told the police that he was “‘standing up for his brothers and sisters’ in New York” by his actions which included shooting at a gas station owned by a Lebanese man and a house occupied by an Afghani family after murdering Sodhi.

Roque’s actions generated a reaction. 3,000 people showed up for a service commemorating Sodhi’s death, and more than 10,000 sent letters of support and condolence.His killer said, “I’m an American patriot, arrest me and let the terrorist go wild!” Prime Minister Vajpayee of India called President Bush to express concern and ask him to protect Indian citizens in the US from further violence. Roque himself was convicted and sentenced to death.

Sadly, tragedy struck the family again less than a year later when Balbir Singh’s brother, Sukhpal Singh Sodhi was killed in mysterious circumstances. Sukhpal, a San Francisco taxi driver, was shot and killed while driving in the Mission. Nothing was taken, leading to suspicion that this may have been another hate crime as well. All in all, as many as 19 people may have been killed in 9/11 related hate crimes.

Thanks to Valarie@DNSI for reminding me of the anniversary of this event with her own post on the subject.

16 thoughts on “R.I.P Balbir Singh Sodhi 1949-2001

  1. May his soul rest in peace and may God give strength and compassion to his family.

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  2. Thank goodness, the guy was convicted and there was some evidence this was not just deemed a “crime of passion”. Aaargh – his brother was not so fortunate…

    How can we educate these haters? I know that Valerie is doing an awesome movie, but I’m talking about the rest of us? What are your ideas???? (And no, wearing a “don’t freak” t-shirt is not an option, and I’m not talking about acknowledging the fact that we’re not middle eastern. Period.)

  3. Let me join you all in expressing our collective sorrow about losing a fine human being to an act of senseless violence. May his soul rest in peace. Thank you SM for putting a face on a statistic and reminding us of the ignorance, sterotyping and racism we live with every day.

  4. It amazes me how this man was doing JUST the opposite of what a terrorist would, was donating to the 9/11 fund, was being patriotic, minding his own, and blammo? I’m ashamed to be ‘American’, and proud to have a Sikh husband who can represent a human being better than those who are supposed to be ‘American’. Balbir was far more american, and this (i’ll not say what i’d really like to) Frank son of a ….. is the terrorist, the crux of ignorance who is the real enemy.

    rest in peace, balbir, you’re a saint, and deserve to be honoured highly. and god bless his family. i hear they hold no hard feelings or that, soemthing i admit i couldn’t do. yet. 😉

  5. oh, and btw….hey Frankie…you sure as hell don’t stand up for me. And i’ll stand up for anyone you think is a terrorist before I’d ever give half a cent to you or anyone like you.

    Balbir is a rolemodel already, and i hope many will look up to him. blessed be!

  6. I am Balbir singh sodhis nephew I loved my uncle like a dad I can say he was the nicest person in the world I still miss my uncle and I always will miss him were ever my uncle is i just want to say we all love you vadda papa and we miss you a lot.vadda papa we really wish you were here with us.I just want to say one thing We need to Love everybody.

  7. There’s a film I saw this past weekend at a private screening that deals with what happened to so many east indians after 9/11 called The Gold Bracelet. I think when people see it, it’s going to change the way a lot of people think.

  8. the movies called:

    Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath

    by: Valarie Kaur and Amandeep Singh Gill

  9. The Sodhi family’s story is poignant and powerful. It is heartbreaking to see not only the pain they have endured, but how despite their strength and perseverance, they have no closure or assurance of safety from unprovoked attacks. I applaud their courage, and pray for their well-being and especially their ability to hope and have faith in others.

  10. The abhorrent actions that people have committed in the name of patriotism is the same as all the despicable crimes committed in the past in the name of religion.

    What sickens me even more is that innocent people are targeted because they fit some preconceived notion someone with easy access to munitions but not a lot of common sense has.

    My condolences to both the families of he and his brother as well as those other 19 victims.