Memorial remembers Mesa man, Balbir Singh Sodhi, killed in post-9/11 hate crime

Posted at 10:03 PM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 01:52:23-04

More than 100 people returned to the scene of the first post-September 11th hate crime Thursday to honor the memory of the man killed.

On September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot and killed outside his gas station on the corner of 80th Street and University Drive. Sodhi, a member of the Sikh faith, was wearing traditional articles, including a turban, and had a beard.

His death is acknowledged as the first hate crime that happened in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The man who killed him called himself a patriot at the time. 

"He killed my brother because he thought the turban and beard did not belong to this country," said Rana Sodhi, Balbir's brother. "We are a part of this country and we are a part of this community."

Dozens of others around the country have since been identified as similar crimes. All victims were of Asian or Middle Eastern descent and no property was stolen, according to advocacy organizations.

Thursday's even focused on embracing diversity by fostering understanding and respect of people from different religions or cultures.