The man who killed Balbir Sigh Sodhi -- the first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11 -- has died in prison after twenty-one years. Listen to Valarie Kaur on the Takeaway, telling the story of reaching out to him to begin a process of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Read Rana Sodhi's profound essay below expressing condolences to the family, published in AZ Central:

My family received a letter last month from the Arizona Department of Corrections. In it, they told us that the man who murdered my brother died in prison on May 11.

Today, I am writing to express my public condolences to the family of Frank Roque.

Twenty-one years ago, my brother Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot to death in front of his store in Mesa. Balbir was a Sikh American father who wore a turban and kept a long beard as part of our faith. He was the first person killed in the wave of hate violence against people of color that followed the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The man who killed him, Frank Roque, was arrested and eventually sentenced to life in prison.

At my brother’s trial, Frank confirmed that the night before his rampage, he said, “I’m going to go out and shoot some towelheads,” and “We should kill their children, too.” When he was arrested, he called himself a patriot. At the time, I heard no regret in his voice.

It was hard at first to listen to him

On the 15-year anniversary of my brother’s death, I was tired. I had been telling my brother’s story to everyone I could – to media, lawmakers and students – but the hate in our country was getting worse. I was tired of racial violence against Sikhs, and against people from so many other communities.

“Nothing has changed,” I said to our family advocate. When she asked if I wanted to speak with Frank, I said yes.

We called Frank in prison in a recorded conversation on Sept. 16, 2016. It was the first time I had ever spoken to him. At first, Frank defended himself. “The events of 9/11 so broke me down as a man that I could not control what happened,” he said.

It was hard to listen, but I kept trying to understand Frank – and then, Frank said to our advocate, “I’m sorry for what happened to his brother.”

I spoke up, replying: “This is the first time I’m hearing that you feel sorry.”

‘I will ask him for forgiveness,’ he said

I told Frank that I recognized his daughter and wife while I was buying flowers on Balbir’s death anniversary a few years ago. I invited them to join me at my brother’s memorial for dinner that night. They didn’t come. Frank said that his daughter told him that I showed them kindness, and that he was grateful.

“I want you to know from my heart, I’m sorry for what I did to your brother,” Frank said to me. “One day, when I go to heaven to be judged by God, I will ask to see your brother, and I will hug him, and I will ask him for forgiveness.”

“I already forgave you,” I told Frank, because in my heart, I believe that forgiveness is freedom from hate. “If one day you come out [of prison], we can both go to the world and tell the story,” I said.

Since I got the news of Frank’s death, I have felt sorrow in my heart again. But in the end, Frank’s legacy is not only violence and hate. His memory is also one of reconciliation and love. I hope that Frank can see Balbir now, and that they hug each other, and that he apologizes to him. I hope they are both at peace.

If Frank can change, we can reach others

Four days after Frank died, I saw the news of the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., where an 18-year-old white supremacist killed 10 Black people in a grocery store. Then, a few days after that, we learned of the school shooting that left 19 children and 2 teachers dead in Uvalde, Texas. Frank took my brother’s life before either of these gunmen were even born.

My heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones in these attacks, and I join so many in asking our elected officials to take action in response to these massacres. In the case of Buffalo, we must acknowledge that white supremacy is a horrible disease that keeps spreading from generation to generation.

And in both cases, the need for the most basic, commonsense gun reform is as clear to me, as it was when my brother was shot to death 20 years ago.

Ultimately, if Frank can be changed, I believe we can reach anyone before they succumb to hate. We can reach them with love. So today, I send love to Frank Roque’s family. I express my condolences for their loss.

And I mourn Frank. He’s not outside of our hearts – no one is.

Rana Singh Sodhi is a Sikh community leader and advocate who lives in Phoenix with his wife and children. Reach him at
You can listen to Valarie's full conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry about revolutionary love in the aftermath of hate violence on The Takeaway here.