Dhaliwal, the first Sikh to join Harris County Sheriff’s Department, was instrumental in Harris County allowing Sikhs to wear turban and sport beard.
A trailblazing Sikh American sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed in Houston, TX, during a midday traffic stop Friday.
Sandeep Dhaliwal was gunned down after he headed back to his car during the patrol stop. The killer, identified as Robert Solis, got out of his vehicle and shot the deputy from behind.
“In a cold-blooded manner, ambush style, (Solis) shot Deputy Dhaliwal from behind,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a press conference on Friday.
Solis, 47, has been charged with capital murder, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office tweeted on Friday night.
Dhaliwal was the first Sikh deputy in Harris County when he joined the Sheriff’s department a decade ago.
As the American Bazaar reported in 2015, the county allowed Dhaliwal to report for duty wearing his turban and beard. In the first six years he was with the department, the deputy was permitted to don his turban or sport a beard.
The Houston Chronicle reported that a weapon was recovered from the suspect.
“He was a hero, a trailblazer,” Gonzalez remembered Dhaliwa. “There are no words to speak to how heartbroken we are, how devastated.”
He added: “It’s the worst day, the worst nightmare for any police executive.”
Harris County police commissioner Adrian Garcia said: “This guy had a heart of gold, he treated his brothers and sisters in law enforcement as if they were just brothers and sisters. He thought of them before he thought of himself. He thought of the broader community before he thought of himself.”
The murder happened around 12:45 p.m. after Dhaliwal pulled over Solis’ vehicle.
The Chronicle, quoting the Sheriff’s Office said dashcam video showed Dhaliwal and the suspect, who was still in his car, “having a conversation with no sign of confrontation.”
As Dhaliwal returned to his car, Solis ran up and “shot him in the head multiple times.” The Sikh American cop died at the hospital.
Solis was arrested from a nearby store. He has a criminal record, including convictions for “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping and driving while intoxicated,” the Chronicle reported.
Across the country, Dhaliwal is being remembered as a trailblazer. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SADEF) said in a tweet:
“We are sad to report on the death of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal. He was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. He was a trailblazer for the Sikh community, he served with dignity and will be missed by all.”
We are sad to report on the death of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal. He was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. He was a trailblazer for the Sikh community, he served with dignity and will be missed by all. pic.twitter.com/t0hN11HWIC
— SALDEF (@SALDEF) September 27, 2019
When Dhaliwal received permission to wear the turban four years ago, SALDEF had issued a statement that read: “With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the country has affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service. We believe that this announcement will inspire other local law enforcement units from around the country to follow in Harris County’s footsteps.”