Before he was shot to death in cold blood Sept. 27, Houston police officer Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal was already a hero.
The Sheriff’s Deputy is being hailed as a hero, not just for the way he lived his life, which was one of service, that signified community engagement, and random acts of kindness, but in death, as the first Indian-American man to wear a turban and beard as his faith demanded, and still police the streets of Harris County, near Houston.
Accolades for the Officer Dhaliwal, 42, poured in from the Texas Governor and Indian-Americans around the country including New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the first Indian-American to hold that post; and Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla, as well as numerous organizations.
“I’ve known Sandeep for many years,” said Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, the first officer in the U.S. Army to be allowed to wear a turban. “He was always smiling, always humble. I never heard a bad thing out of him. This end has been a huge, huge shock to us. Me personally, and the Sikh community,” Kalsi told this writer.
The community has a lot of opinions on what transpired, he said. “Was it a hate crime – the fact he was shot in the back and then the killer stood on top of his head and shot. It harks back to Oak Creek. We don’t want to be victims. We want to heal the wounds. We don’t want to be afraid. We want our police officers and our kids to be safe. We don’t want to be worried about them when they leave the house. And I don’t think that’s much to ask,” Kalsi said sounding emotional in the phone call interview.
He said the sadness felt was increased because Dhaliwal leaves behind his wife, two daughters and a very young son. And sad because the Sikh community continues to see such incidents happen.
“Deeply saddened to learn of this tragedy. Officer Dhaliwal was a hardworking & honorable man. He was a trailblazer leading the way as the 1st Sikh to serve as a Deputy Sheriff in Houston, for other Sikhs to serve their communities in law enforcement. My prayers are w/ his family,” Mayor Bhalla said in a tweet Sept. 28.
“Thank you @HCSOTexas Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal for your service and commitment to keeping your community safe. You inspired a generation of Sikh Americans to public service and for that we honor you. You embodied the Sikh tradition of being a #SaintSoldier. RIP Deputy Dhaliwal,” tweeted N.J. Attorney General Grewal.
The Harris County Police Department is still reeling from the loss, In anticipation of the funeral scheduled for Oct. 2, the department urged community member they had Bobby Singh, a long time Houston resident offer words of comfort at an Sept. 30, press conference.
“It’s been a sad few days. Not only the community is grieving, I think all residents of this state, city, country are grieving as what I refer to as the loss of a ‘true American hero’,” said Singh at the briefing, praising Dhaliwal for his life of service beyond the boundaries of his work.
According to a dedicated GoFundMe page, $504,698, has been raised for Officer Dhaliwal. According to the Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales’ post on Twitter, local business Papa Johns “generously” donated all profits from Oct. 1, 2019 sales to Deputy Dhaliwal’s family. “All greater Houston area locations are participating,” according to the Sheriff’s post.
“Our entire county is grieving the loss. Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was shot and killed in the line of duty. Firefighters, friends, fellow peace officers and even strangers are touched by the ultimate sacrifice. We gathered last night for a candlelight vigil,” said Sheriff Gonzalez posting images from the event on the police department Facebook page.
Dhaliwal was shot in the back after he attended to a traffic stop, by Robert Solis, 47, who is charged with capitol murder, A court hearing was held Sept. 30, in which Solis was denied bail.
“It is a likely outcome that death will be the sentence here,” Judge Chris Morton told accused killer, according to a report in chron.com. Solis had a history of past violent crimes and convictions.
Dhaliwal on the other hand, is being feted worldwide from as far away as Australia, for his good deeds having been involved in special philanthropic projects in Punjab and Houston.