Suspect faces murder charge in killing of Houston-area deputy hailed as ‘trailblazer’

Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Texas man faces a capital murder charge for killing a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy who became the first Sikh deputy on the force and pushed for policy allowing him to wear a turban while on duty, authorities said.

Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, 42, died Friday during a traffic stop. Authorities said Robert Solis, 47, ran up to Dhaliwal’s squad car and shot him in the head multiple times.

Doctors declared the deputy dead after he was airlifted to the hospital.

Dashcam video does not show any confrontation while the suspect was still in his car, Harris County Sheriff’s Maj. Mike Lee said.

A witness saw the suspect run to a getaway car and Lee said the suspect went to a nearby store.

Solis has prior convictions for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping and driving while intoxicated.

Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal. Photo: Harris (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office

Dhaliwal made history 10 years ago when he became the Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s first Sikh deputy and successfully pushed for a policy to allow him to wear his Sikh turban and beard on patrol.

“He was a hero, a trailblazer,” Sheriff Ed Gonzales said. “There are no words to speak to how heartbroken we are, how devastated.”

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Gonzalez, who considered himself a close friend of Dhaliwal, also released a video a Harris County resident sent to the department of him interacting with his deaf son, saying he left a “bright impression.”

A father of three young children, Dhaliwal, began his law enforcement career after deputies botched a domestic violence call at a Sikh family’s home and then-Sheriff Adrian Garcia reached out to him to strengthen the department’s relationship with the Sikh community.

Dhaliwal left a “lucrative” trucking job to become a civilian detention officer, Alan Bernstein, a former spokesman for the sheriff’s office said.

Dhaliwal’s father was a police officer in India before the family moved to the United States.

“As a Sikh American, I felt the need to represent the Sikh community in law enforcement,” Dhaliwal told NBC News in 2015. “Serving in the police force is natural to us, as Sikhs value service.”

Religious freedom advocates said he sent a powerful message to religious minority groups, especially the 500,000 Sikhs living in America, that they could serve without compromising their faith.

He was also remembered for his charity work including working with the national Sikh group to deliver truckloads of donated goods to first responders during Hurricane Harvey and traveling to Puerto Rico to assist the family of a colleague after Hurricane Maria.

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