Thousands of police officers, Sikh believers and Houston-area residents turned out for daylong ceremonies Wednesday to honor as “humble” and “fearless” Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, who was shot to death during a traffic stop last week.
Dhaliwal, 42, was the first Sikh sheriff’s deputy in Harris County, part of a Gulf Coast region that is home to as many as 10,000 Sikhs.
At the service, Simratpal Singh, a U.S. Army captain, flanked by other members of the Sikh community in military service, described Dhaliwal as “humble, fearless, not dissuaded by negativity.”
“Our lion may be gone physically, but his legacy of selfless service and of breaking down barriers will continue to live,” he said.
Dhaliwal was fatally shot in an ambush-style attack during a routine traffic stop Friday.
The observances Wednesday included a procession, two funeral services and a law enforcement memorial with a 21-gun salute from fellow officers and a helicopter flyover. The procession route was lined with blue and white signs reading, “Always in Our Hearts” and “In Loving Memory of Deputy Dhaliwal.”
The Sikh National Center asked those attending the ceremonies to wear navy blue, just like the Harris County Sheriff’s Office uniform.
‘Gem of a person, a beautiful soul’: Houston mourns trailblazing Sikh deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaking before thousands during the Sikh part of the ceremony, told Dhaliwal’s wife and three children the community “supports you and lifts you up.”
“We are grateful for your father’s service and his sacrifice and his legacy,” Cruz said.
The father of three joined the force 10 years ago and was the state’s first law enforcement officer to receive permission to wear a religious turban and beard while on duty.
Sikhism, which shares some philosophical concepts with the much-older Hinduism, was founded in the 15th century in the Indian region of Punjab. It has about 27 million followers worldwide, most of them in India, and more than half a million in the USA.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez described Dhaliwal as “a man of dedication, faith, love and compassion.”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the nation’s first Sikh state’s attorney general, said Dhaliwal “inspired an entire generation of Sikhs to public service.”
The services Wednesday followed a candlelight vigil by the sheriff’s office for Dhaliwal on Monday and a 48-hour prayer vigil at the Gurdwara Sikh National Center.
“He was just a gem of a person. He was a beautiful soul,” said Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the New York-based Sikh Coalition. “Everyone who knew him admired him greatly.”
The public was invited to attend the viewing and funeral services. Services were held at the Berry Center, which can accommodate up to 8,000 people, and space was set aside for overflow crowds. The services were carried live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Dhaliwal was killed in the town of Cypress after pulling over a vehicle for running a stop sign. Investigators said video from a dashboard camera shows the suspect, Robert Solis, 47, getting out of his car, approaching Dhaliwal from behind and shooting him twice in the head.
Law enforcement officials said Solis had a warrant for his arrest on parole violations and probably feared that his arrest would mean a return to prison.
Solis, who was charged with capital murder, was arrested at a nearby grocery parking lot after a tip by a witness.
At a hearing for Solis on Monday, Harris County Judge Chris Morton was blunt: “It’s a likely outcome that death will be the sentence here.”
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