Nation Mourns ‘Trailblazing’ Sikh Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal

Thousands came together for daylong ceremonies Wednesday to honor “humble” and “fearless” Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, who was shot to death during a traffic stop last week.

A community vigil was one week ago Monday, followed by Deputy Dhaliwal’s memorial service Wednesday, Oct 2. 

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal “was unable to recover from his injuries” after he was shot in the back of the head during a traffic stop in northwest Harris County, Texas. He is survived by his loving family, including his wife and three children.

Deputy Dhaliwal, 42, was the first Sikh to serve in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) while maintaining his articles of faith, including his turban and unshorn hair. At the time he received religious accommodation to do so, HCSO was the largest sheriff’s office in the nation to have a Sikh American serving with those articles of faith. 

Lieutenant Dhaliwal was widely regarded as a role model for young Sikh Americans and other religious minorities wishing to serve their communities in law enforcement, and his passing is deeply felt in the Houston community and across the nation.

Officials identified 47-year-old Robert Solis as one of the suspects and arrested him on Sept 27. Solis was charged with capital murder the following day. A second suspect was also arrested but has not been publicly identified. 

Authorities have given no indication that the killing was a hate crime. Solis was wanted for 2017 parole violations for assault and possession of a prohibited weapon. He was likely to be sent back to jail, where he served 12 years of a 20-year sentence for two felonies he was convicted of in 2002 after he shot a man, the Chronicle reported.

To further his legacy of selfless service, the Sikh Coalition has assisted 98 Sikh current and former law enforcement and military personnel with two letters urging reform to religious accommodation policies in their respective institutions.

The press statement can be found here, with the letters here and here. Additionally, U.S. Army Captain Simratpal Singh has written on the need to change accommodation policies to honor Deputy Dhaliwal’s legacy here.

By Nikki Singh

Nikki is a Policy and Advocacy Manager at a national civil rights non-profit where she supports the organization's advocacy to … Read more ›