|Death: ||Sep. 15, 2001|
He was a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona that was murdered in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He made national headlines because his murder was to be the first of numerous cases across the country of retaliation against people thought to be of Arab or Middle Eastern descent. He was a member of the Sikh religion and moved to Los Angeles in 1989, where he worked as a taxi driver. He later relocated to San Francisco, where he continued to work as a taxi cab driver. He saved enough money to buy a gas station in Arizona and then moved there. The September 11th attacks left him very distraught since he was a peaceful and peace loving man. On the morning of September 15th 2001, he drove to Costco, searching for an American flag to display at the gas station he owned. On his way out, he donated $75 to the September 11th victims' fund. At about 2:45pm, Balbir was outside the gas station, planting flowers when he was shot five times and left drenched in a pool of blood. His assailant, 44 year-old Frank Silva Roque sped off in a pickup truck but was later caught. Roque was a riveter for the Boeing company and had a known history of schizophrenia and also thought Balbir was of Middle Eastern descent due to his turban and beard. Roque also shot at another gas station where the clerk was a gentleman of Lebanese descent, and shot at the home of an Afghan family that were not injured. On September 30th 2001 he was convicted of attempted first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and endangerment for the shootings that followed Balbir's murder.
Balbir's death horrified the state of Arizona, made national headlines and galvanized the entire country. Many people paid very close attention to the trial of Frank Roque. On October 10th 2003 jurors at Maricopa County Superior Court dismissed Roque's plea of insanity and the defense claims that he had a diminished mental responsibility and sentenced Roque to face the death penalty by means of lethal injection. The Arizona Supreme Court however would eventually commute the death sentence to life without parole, agreeing with defense attorneys that Roque was mentally ill and had an IQ so low that he should have been given the lesser sentence.
Balbir Singh was known by friends and neighbors as a quiet and gentle man that respected people of all races, backgrounds, religions and faiths. Children told reporters how Balbir would let them buy candy from his store even if they didn't have enough money. Homeless people told stories of his kindness towards them. Neighbors came by the hundreds with candles and flowers to honor his memory. After Balbir Singh's murder, President George Bush, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Prime Minister of India, the Justice Department, the US Attorney, the Mayor of Mesa, the Maricopa County Attorney, the Attorney General, the Governor, the police agencies, the Interfaith community, the media, the jury, community leaders and members of the community made public statements of tolerance and acceptance.
Balbir left behind a wife and five children.
Unfortunately the Sodhi family was to experience more grief when on August 4, 2002 Balbir's younger brother Sukhpal was shot to death while driving his taxicab in San Francisco, California. He was apparently killed by a stray bullet from a nearby gang fight.
THANK YOU TO RENEE RYBANSKI FOR OPENING HER HEART AND SPONSORING BALBIR'S MEMORIAL. YOU'RE WONDERFUL! GOD BLESS.
Created by: Weldon
Record added: Aug 28, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15537011