Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was conducting a routine traffic stop on Friday when he was shot in the head.
He had pulled over a vehicle in Harris County, Texas. Dashcam footage showed he and the driver talking with “no combat, no arguing,” sheriff’s Major Mike Lee told reporters Friday, according to CNN affiliate KTRK. The driver’s door was open as the two men talked. Dhaliwal then shut the door before turning to walk back to his patrol car. At that time the suspect, 47-year-old Robert Solis, got out of his vehicle and “almost immediately running with a gun already out,” Lee added. Dhaliwal was shot in the back of the head and later died from his injuries, reported KTRK.
“In a cold-blooded manner, ambush style, (he) shot Deputy Dhaliwal from behind,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters. “It’s the worst day, the worst nightmare for any police executive.”
CNN reported that police used Dhaliwal’s dashcam to identify Solis and arrested him at a nearby ice cream parlor.
Gonzalez tweeted that Solis “had an active Parole Violation Warrant for Aggravated Assault w/Deadly Weapon dating back to January 2017.”
Lee said Friday that Solis “probably knew he was going to go back to jail and did not want to go back to jail.”
Dhaliwal, CNN reported, gained national attention in 2015 after he was given permission to wear his turban and full beard as part of his religion. Dhaliwal, an observant Sikh, had owned his own trucking business before joining the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. When he heard the office was looking for someone who could connect with the local Sikh community, he sold his business and became a detention officer, eventually becoming a deputy.
Six years after joining the police department, an official policy change allowed him to wear his turban and beard while on duty.
“As a Sikh American, I felt the need to represent the Sikh community in law enforcement,” Dhaliwal said when the policy was issued. “It will give me the chance to open up the conversation.”
His coworkers remember him as a beloved member of the community. Harris County police commissioner Adrian Garcia said Dhaliwal had “a heart of gold.”
“This guy had a heart of gold. He treated his brothers and sisters in law enforcement as if they were just brothers and sisters. He thought of them before he thought of himself. He thought of the broader community before he thought of himself,” Garcia said.
Gonzalez said Dhaliwal “wore the turban, he represented his community with integrity, respect and pride and he was respected by all.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turn tweeted that Dhaliwal “represented the diversity and inclusiveness of our community and everything that is good. Evil you do not win here.”
Members of the community also sent footage of Dhaliwal interacting with residents. One woman sent a video of the deputy playing with her deaf son at a restaurant.
“A Harris County resident sent us a video of fallen Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal,” the sheriff’s office tweeted. “‘He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,’ she said. Deputy Dhaliwal is an incredible loss not only to our HCSO family but to the entire community.”
A Harris County resident sent us a video of fallen Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal.
“He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,” she said.
Deputy Dhaliwal is an incredible loss not only to our HCSO family but to the entire community. pic.twitter.com/EbsdFeeWXO
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) September 28, 2019