Officer & Gentleman
Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, killed in cold blood in line of duty receives send-off befitting an American Hero
Thousands of people, including Indian-Americans and police officers from around the nation and Canada, as well as concerned members of the public, gathered at The Berry Center in Houston Oct. 2, to bid a sad farewell to Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was shot in cold blood Sept. 27, while dealing with a routine traffic stop.
As Officer Dhaliwal’s close family members, including his wife, his parents and his children could barely mask their emotions, the faces of his colleagues showed how the tragedy had affected them.
It was a fitting tribute to a man who by the age of 42, had already achieved standing not just as the first Indian-American of the Sikh faith to be allowed to wear his religious symbols, but also as a unique officer with a friendly demeanor, noted for his public policing and outreach, and his philanthropic work in greater Houston, as well as in far away India.
Robert Solis, 47, is charged with capitol murder for shooting Dhaliwal in the back, and at a court hearing held Sept. 30, he was denied bail and there is talk of the death penalty.
“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,” questioned Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, the first Indian-American allowed to wear religious symbols in the U.S. Army. “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 with News India Times.
Meanwhile, for a life snuffed out before Officer Dhaliwal could chalk up more and bigger achievements, accolades poured in from around the world, from the Texas Governor, India, Australia, Canada, 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 from abroad, and from numerous organizations.
“I’ve known Sandeep for many years,” Lt. Col. Kalsi said. “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 said.
Dhaliwal leaves behind his wife, two daughters and a very young son. “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 still reeling from the loss, At a Sept. 30 press conference about the funeral, Sheriff Ed Gonzales urged community member Bobby Singh, a long time Houstonian, to offer words of comfort.
“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 Bobby Singh at the briefing, praising Dhaliwal for his life of service beyond the boundaries of his work.
According to a dedicated GoFundMe page for Officer Dhaliwal’s family, $504,698 was raised by Oct. 2, jumped up to $665, 619 next day from 8,000 donors, The GoFundMe is set up by a group Sikhs of Houston, and says, “This fund has been established to help in the Dhaliwal kids’ educational endeavors, unforseen expenses, for and provide hopes and dreams through the same vision that Deputy Dhaliwal had.”
According to Sheriff 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 on Facebook, with pictures of a candle light vigil held in town. He also said the entire county is grieving the loss, including firefighters, friends, fellow peace officers and even strangers touched by the ultimate sacrifice.
At the funeral Oct. 2, a group of police officers from the Peel Region of Ontario, Canada, came to mourn Dhaliwal’s passing. Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, tweeted, “An honour to have 8 of our officers in #Houston for #DeputyDhaliwal killed on duty. The Sikh cmnty is a large part of the fabric of @regionofpeel important to be there. #DeputyDhaliwal; The best in policing, pride in serving, a role model for Sikhs &as a pioneer.#HeroesInLife”
“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.
(The Harris County Police Department provided the following important information: Donations for Deputy Dhaliwal’s family may be made in his name to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Benevolence Association (www.hcsoba.com), or at https://www.gofundme.com/f/deputy-sandeep-singh-dhaliwal-scholarship-fund)