Sandeep Dhaliwal, the Harris County sheriff’s deputy who was honored as a trailblazing Sikh officer after being shot and killed in a traffic stop ambush, was remembered for his giving nature, including the hugs he was known to dispense to community members in need.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Department shared this heartwarming video of Deputy Dhaliwal with a young hearing impaired boy in an effort to truly capture what Deputy Dhaliwal was like. “This video captures the essence of who Deputy Dhaliwal was. He touched countless of lives along the way. A legacy that will never be forgotten. We will aspire to be as good as he was,” the sheriff wrote.
The woman who sent the video to the Sheriff’s Department told them, “He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf.”
Here’s the video:
Tributes flooded social media for the slain deputy, who was the first law enforcement officer in Texas approved to wear a beard and turban on the job in tribute to his Sikh faith. “His name was Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal. I knew him personally and felt proud to know that there was a person from the Sikh community working as an officer in the 4th most populous city in the United States,” wrote one person on Twitter. “This is so sad. #SandeepDhaliwal was a brave and kind soul. He was adored by the local community of Houston. He was a hero during hurricane Harvey. Rest In Peace brother. You were too good for this world,” wrote another. His full name was Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal.
“Deputy Dhaliwal is known to everybody as someone with a giving heart,” the sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, said in a news conference. He was the “first member of the Sikh community to become a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy. He wore the turban. He represented his community with integrity, respect and pride and… he was respected by all.” In the press conference, the Sheriff called Dhaliwal “a hero, a respected member of the community and a trailblazer.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Sandeep Dhaliwal Represented Everything About the City That Was Good, the Mayor Says
“Our city’s grief is boundless in the rare instance that a first responder in our region dies in the line of duty. But the killing of Harris County Sheriff’s Dep. Sandeep Dhaliwal today brings with it an exceptional horror,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “He was a bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation, and around the world, because he sought and received permission to patrol while wearing the outward signs of his Sikh faith, including a turban and beard.”
Turner added: “The story of him putting the Sikh imperative of ‘seva’ — selfless service — on display as a peacekeeper went worldwide. In that role he was a walking lesson in tolerance and understanding, which are values Houstonians uphold here in the nation’s most diverse big city. I send my deepest condolences to the deputy’s family, to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office.”
Dhaliwal had been on the force for 10 years. He was proud of being a law enforcement officer.
When Deputy Darren Goforth was murdered in Harris County, Dhaliwal was seen “consoling his community with hugs” and told ABC13: “He’s one of the reasons I am in uniform today.”
According to the television station, Dhaliwal visited Goforth’s memorial daily and urged people to support law enforcement officers more visibly. “Just wear blue. Wear blue and be proud of that,” Dhaliwal said to ABC13 then. “And that shows support to law enforcement. Simple as that.”
Dhaliwal’s Turban on Patrol Made Him a Pioneer
In 2015, Deputy Dhaliwal was allowed to wear his beard and turban while on patrol as a deputy because they are required by his Sikh faith.
“Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal beamed with pride when then-Sheriff @AdrianGarciaHTX announced he could wear his Sikh turbin and a beard while on duty,” The Harris County Sheriff’s Department wrote on Twitter. According to Click2Houston, for the first six years on the force, Dhaliwal couldn’t wear his beard and turban but the sheriff worked to change the policy alongside the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The Sikh Coalition explains, “The founder of the Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak, was born in the region of Punjab, South Asia, in 1469 CE. He lived a life of spirituality, service, and honesty, and the disciples who began to follow his teachings came to be known as Sikhs.”
According to the Sikh Coalition, “Perhaps the most visible aspect of the Sikh identity is the turban, which can be worn by men and women alike. The turban was historically worn by royalty in South Asia, and the Gurus adopted this practice as a way of asserting the sovereignty and equality of all people. For a Sikh, wearing a turban asserts a public commitment to maintaining the values and ethics of the tradition, including service, compassion, and honesty.”
ABC13 reported that Dhaliwal was “an entrepreneur who sold a lucrative business in order to go into law enforcement.”
“This tragic loss is a grave reminder of the risks that our law enforcement officers face every single day. I thank the officers who bravely responded to apprehend the suspect, and I assure you that the state of Texas is committed to bringing this killer to justice,” the Texas governor said of Dhaliwal’s death.
Dhaliwal was also remembered for helping both Houston and Puerto Rican residents when hurricanes struck those areas.
Post Harvey, “when we needed the most help, he brought an 18 wheeler of people he gathered together who came all the way from California to deliver goods to our community,” Gonzalez recalled. “When a colleague needed help because his relatives were in Puerto Rico after the hurricane there,” continued the sheriff, Deputy Dhaliwal “went on a trip with Commissioner Garcia to help support the Puerto Rican community.”
Many stories were told about Deputy Dhaliwal, said Gonzalez. “We try to reflect on the life he lived and not how he died. Truly, he died a hero. He died serving the Harris County community…”
Authorities say a suspect with a violent criminal history ambushed Dhaliwal during a routine traffic stop, running up behind him as he walked back to his car. He is now in custody and accused of capital murder.