Former co-workers of a Mesa man accused of a hate-crime murder gave testimony Monday that suggested the victim was targeted days before the shooting.
The witnesses, Boeing employees who worked with Frank Roque, said that Roque mentioned before the Sept. 15, 2001, slaying that he was having problems with someone at a convenience store "on University."
Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh follower who wore a turban, was gunned down in front of his Chevron station at 80th Street and University Drive, apparently in retaliation for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by Middle Eastern, Muslim fanatics, prosecutors have said. Sodhi was neither Muslim nor from the Middle East.
"He said there was a guy with a turban over there giving him a hard time," said Barry Hammond, who worked in the same hangar as Roque at Williams Gateway Airport. "He said the guy was kind of rude to him." Under cross examination, Hammond said he couldn’t remember using the term "turban" when the FBI interviewed him two years ago and Roque didn’t say he would personally take care of the problem he was having with the unnamed person.
Rafael Baldenegro, another Boeing employee, said Roque talked about problems with someone at a convenience store that he understood was the one where Sodhi was killed.
In other testimony, a medical examiner said Sodhi died within a minute of losing consciousness after being shot. Two of the five bullets that hit Sodhi were fatal, said Dr. Mark Fischione.
Roque is also charged in two drive-by shootings.
The state is seeking the death penalty against Roque, who claims he was too insane at the time of the shootings to know right from wrong.
If he is found to be guilty except insane, Roque will be sent to a mental hospital until he is found to be no longer a threat.
The state is scheduled to wrap up its case by Wednesday with defense testimony beginning Thursday.