After Dhaliwal death, police in several cities have allowed Sikh officers to wear their articles of faith while serving
A man charged with gunning down the Houston area’s trailblazing beloved first Sikh sheriff’s deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal during a traffic stop, could face the death penalty after he was convicted of capital murder.
It took jurors less than an hour to convict Robert Solis for the 2019 death of Dhaliwal Harris County’s first observant Sikh sheriff’s deputy, according to media reports.
He gained national attention for helping change the department’s policy to allow articles of faith, such as a turban, to be worn while on the force.
On Sep 27, 2019, Dhaliwal pulled over Solis, who was wanted for a parole violation, during a traffic stop. As Dhaliwal was walking back to his patrol car, Solis shot the deputy in the back of his head.
As the sentencing phase got underway Monday afternoon after a weeklong trial, a defiant Solis who acted as his own attorney, himself asked for the death penalty.
“Since you believe I’m guilty of capital murder, I believe you should give me the death penalty,” Solis told the jury, according to local KTRK channel.
Solis did not have any visible reaction as the verdict was read. At least 18 deputies were surrounding him.
During his testimony and closing argument of the guilt phase, Solis claimed that the shooting was an accident.
“Because of the position that I had the weapon, I lost control of it…in trying to recover the weapon, I accidentally pulled the trigger and it discharged,” he testified to the jury.
Read: Tributes pour in for trailblazing Sikh deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal (October 4, 2019)
Solis told jurors he felt like he was “in a movie” when he shot Deputy Dhaliwal. “It’s me in the sense that it’s me, but it’s not me in the sense of, I mean, I’m looking at myself but I don’t see myself,” he said.
He also claimed Deputy Dhaliwal used “microagressions” during the traffic stop. Prosecutors argued Solis intentionally and knowingly killed Deputy Dhaliwal.
“This is an act. This is a choice,” prosecutor Lauren Bard said. “This is intent, and he comes running up to that man with a gun and he shoves him up against the car.”
“No one gets more argumentative or defensive than a narcissist that’s being accused of something he definitely did,” prosecutor Katie Warren said.
Deputy Dhaliwal’s relatives described feeling relieved after the guilty verdict. They, along with multiple deputies, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales, and former sheriff Adrian Garcia, observed the trial.
Read: Houstonians pay tribute to slain deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal (October 3, 2019 )
In opening statements, prosecutors said they will bring evidence of Solis’ lengthy criminal history. Testimony is expected to last another week.
“We know what were asking you to do, we also know that the evidence supports it and that leaving him anywhere other than death row is too great a risk,” Warren told jurors in her opening statement.
Dhaliwal paved the way for other law enforcement officers of the Sikh religion. People tried to talk Sandeep Dhaliwal out of joining the force. But he was determined to help others
“He wanted to show that a Sikh person with a turban is a symbol of someone who’s there to provide service, to provide help whenever you need it,” childhood friend BJ Josan said after the deputy’s death.
On or off duty, Dhaliwal was always finding ways to help strangers. “He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,” a resident posted to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Even after his death, Dhaliwal made an impact on the law enforcement community. In 2019, the nearby Houston Police Department announced a change to its uniform policy to allow officers to wear their articles of faith while serving.
Other police departments have made similar policy changes in recent years, including those in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Riverside, California.
Read: Slain Texas deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal’s funeral on Wednesday (September 30, 2019)