Dhaliwal’s killer appears in court; Biden, Ambassador Ken Juster, NFL’s Houston Texans pay tribute to the deputy.
Robert Solis, the accused in the shooting death of Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, was taken to the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in Houston on Monday. He was charged with capital murder in the killing of the county’s first Sikh deputy.
Judge Chris Morton hinted at the possible fate of Solis, 47, before sending him back to jail. “It is a likely outcome that death will be the sentence here,” said Morton sternly.
Solis was on the run from a parole warrant, when Dhaliwal pulled him over for a traffic violation on Friday noon in the Cypress area. When the deputy walked back to his patrol car, Solis allegedly got down from his vehicle and ran up to the officer and shot him from behind. He was later tracked down with his car at a nearby Kroger when he exited from a Marble Slab Creamery.
“He is a danger to our society,” said prosecutor Katie Warren in his argument before the court Monday. “He showed signs of trying to flee.”
A habitual criminal, Solis was convicted of two felonies in 2002 for shooting a man and then barricading himself in his home using his 4-year-old son “as a shield.” He was undergoing a 20-year term in jail when released on parole in 2014. In 2017, he was put on warrant for violating parole that was active when Dhaliwal pulled him over on Friday.
Solis is facing death sentence for slaying a law enforcement official.
“A capital murder case, of course, is either life without parole or the death penalty,” said Allan Isbell, the defense lawyer. “Unless they decide not to seek the death penalty, he’s not entitled to a bond.”
Dhaliwal, the first Sikh to join Harris County Sheriff’s Department, was behind the county allowing Sikhs to wear turban and sport beard. On Friday Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said, “He was a hero, a trailblazer. There are no words to speak to how heartbroken we are, how devastated… It’s the worst day, the worst nightmare for any police executive.”
Dhaliwal was the first Sikh deputy in Harris County when he joined the Sheriff’s office a decade ago. In 2015, the county allowed Dhaliwal to report for duty wearing his turban and beard.
Meanwhile, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday that Dhaliwal’s funeral will be held on Wednesday. The office tweeted: “The funeral ceremony for Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal will be Wednesday 10/2 at the Berry Center, 8877 Barker Cypress. Sikh religious ceremony at 10:30 a.m., law enforcement ceremony at 11:30. Public welcome at both, space permitting.”
The funeral ceremony for Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal will be Wednesday 10/2 at the Berry Center, 8877 Barker Cypress. Sikh religious ceremony at 10:30 a.m., law enforcement ceremony at 11:30. Public welcome at both, space permitting. #hounews
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) September 28, 2019
Just days after the death of the deputy, tributes kept pouring in. Former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful described Dhaliwal as “a hero and a trailblazer.” The Democrat tweeted: “Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was a hero and a trailblazer who selflessly served his community every day. [Jill Biden] and I are keeping his family and loved ones in our hearts.”
Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was a hero and a trailblazer who selflessly served his community every day. @DrBiden and I are keeping his family and loved ones in our hearts. https://t.co/82ex0246hj
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 30, 2019
On Sunday, during the NFL game between Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers a moment’s silence was observed at the NRG stadium.
Also mourning the death was the US missions in India. US Ambassador to India Ken Juster tweeted: “The U.S. Mission in India mourns the death of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, a Sikh Indian-American officer in Houston, Texas. Our deepest sympathies to his family. May he rest in peace.”
The U.S. Mission in India mourns the death of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, a Sikh Indian-American officer in Houston, Texas. Our deepest sympathies to his family. May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/VlpvTDhi9V
— Ken Juster (@USAmbIndia) September 29, 2019
On Friday, 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 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.”
When Dhaliwal received permission to wear the turban in 2015, SALDEF was upbeat. “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,” it stated.