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Frank Silva ROQUE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 15, 2001
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: July 8, 1959
Victim profile: Balbir Singh Sodhi (gas station owner)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Resentenced to life in prison in 2006

Supreme Court of Arizona

opinion CR-03-0355-AP

Frank Silva Roque (Born July 8, 1959) is an American murderer from Arizona who killed gas station owner Balbir Singh Sodhi four days after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Roque incorrectly believed that the Indian Sikh was a Muslim due to his turban. Roque claimed it was retaliation for the attacks in New York.


A Boeing aircraft mechanic at a local repair facility, Roque held a criminal record for an attempted robbery in California, and had reportedly told friends and a waitress at a local Applebees restaurant that he was "going to go out and shoot some towel-heads" the day of the September 11th attacks.

On September 15, the 42-year old Roque took his Chevy S-10 from the Wild Hare sports bar in Mesa where he had reportedly been ranting about immigrants, and drove to the Chevron gas station owned by Balbir Singh Sodhi, who had immigrated from India in 1985. Roque shot Sodhi five times from his truck with a .380 handgun, killing him as he helped landscaper Luis Ledesma plant flowers around the edge of his gas station.

Roque then drove to a Mobile gas station 10 miles away, where he shot at a Lebanese-American clerk from his truck, but missed. Roque then drove to his former residence which had been purchased by a local Afghani family and fired multiple rounds at the outside of the house.

After fleeing from the final shooting, Roque was reported to have gone to a local bar and boasted that "They're investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street."

Arrest, Trial and Conviction

Police arrested Roque the next day, initially unaware of the later shooting incidents. He reportedly shouted slogans including "I am a patriot!" and "I stand for America all the way!" during his arrest. His bail was set at $1 million.

His trial by jury began on August 18th 2003. Defence attorneys Daniel B. Patterson and Robert D. Stein argued he was not guilty due to insanity, claiming that he had a diminished IQ and heard relentless voices telling him that Arabs were satanic and must be killed. Two coworkers testified that Roque was "narrow-minded" and that he hated both immigrants and Arabs.

On September 30th he was found guilty of first degree murder, and was sentenced to death by Judge Mark Aceto nine days later.

On July 19th 2005 he was found guilty of an unspecificed conspiracy charge while in prison, specified only as a violent crime. On February 27th 2006 he was found guilty of having manufactured a primitive weapon in prison three days earlier.

The trial was aired by Court TV in a 5-part series.


State v. (Frank Silva) Roque, 213 Ariz. 193, 141 P.3d 368 (2006)

(Death penalty reduced to natural life without possibility of release)

Jury Trial/Indep. Review

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: On September 15, 2001, Roque shot and killed a Sikh of Indian descent, believing him to be Arab, in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also shot at several other Arab-Americans. He was convicted of premeditated murder, attempted murder, reckless endangerment and three counts of drive-by shooting. Direct appeal of death sentence with independent review.


The trial court properly dismissed this aggravating factor based on Roque’s 1983 California conviction for attempted robbery.  The attempted robbery offense in California would not have constituted attempted robbery in Arizona and therefore did not qualify as a serious offense under (F)(2).

Roque shot the victim while the victim was talking to another man. He fired five or six shots toward both men from a distance of 20 feet. Although Roque’s intended target was the victim, the other man was in the zone of danger and could have been hit or killed if Roque had not been an accurate shot. 


The Court independently found:

  • Impairment - the evidence showed that Roque’s mother was a schizophrenic, leaving Roque predisposed to mental health problems. All four mental health experts who testified at trial regarding Roque’s mental condition on the days after September 11, 2001, agreed that his mental condition impaired his capacity to conform to the law, but varied in their opinions of how significant that impairment was. The Court gave this mitigating evidence substantial weight.

  • Low IQ - Roque’s IQ was measured at 80. Although this IQ is not, by itself, low enough for Roque to be considered to have mental retardation, his overall score is below average. The Court considered the likely impact of his low IQ on Roque’s ability to seek help or reason his way out of committing the crimes.

The Court found that the mitigation was sufficiently substantial to outweigh the sole aggravator.

JUDGMENT:  Death sentence vacated and reduced to natural life without possibility of parole.


Frank Silva Roque arrest.


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