- Robert Solis, 50, fatally shot 42-year-old Sandeep Dhaliwal at a traffic stop near Houston on Sept. 27, 2019.
A 50-year-old man has been sentenced to death for the 2019 murder of Sandeep Dhaliwal, the first Sikh American deputy in the Harris County Sheriff’s Department in Texas. Dhaliwal was fatally shot on Sept. 27, 2019, at a traffic stop. The 10-year veteran was survived by his wife and three children.
CBS News said, “the jury deliberated for about 35 minutes before returning the death sentence for Robert Solis, after convicting him of capital murder” in the 2019 killing. Citing trial evidence, CBS noted that Solis shot the 42-year-old deputy “multiple times during a 2019 traffic stop in a residential cul-de-sac 18 miles north-west of Houston.”Dhaliwal was reportedly returning to his patrol car when Solis shot him from behind.
Solis represented himself in the trial “after firing his three defense attorneys.
At the time of Dhaliwal’s murder, KHOU 11 reported Solis was sentenced to 20 years in jail on October 2002, for kidnapping his own son and shooting a man in the leg. He was released after serving 12 years of the 20-year prison sentence. In 2017, a warrant was issued after he was again accused of violating parole for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and weapon possession. He was still wanted on the warrant at the time of Dhaliwal’s death.
According to a CNN report at the time, the dashcam in Dhaliwal’s car captured the Sept. 27 incident when he was shot. A CNN report, quoting Maj. Mike Lee with the sheriff’s office, said that the video shows Dhaliwal speaking with the driver.
According to the CNN report, Lee told CNN affiliate KTRK-TV that there was no argument, no combat. The driver’s door was open at one point as the deputy and driver were talking, Lee said, adding that Dhaliwal shut the driver’s door, as the driver remained in the vehicle.
The CNN report, further quoting Lee’s conversation with KTRK-TV “as Dhaliwal turned to walk back to his patrol car, the driver’s side door opened and a man could be seen exiting the vehicle almost immediately running with a gun already out.” It was then that Solis shot Dhaliwal in the back of the head, after which he returned to his vehicle and drove away. A nearby resident saw the shooting and rushed to help the deputy, Lee said.
Colleagues, including Harris County Police Commissioner Adrian Garcia, described Dhaliwal as a trailblazer. Garcia told CNN at the time that Dhaliwal “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 told CNN that before becoming a deputy, Dhaliwal was an entrepreneur with a trucking business. He said that when Dhaliwal came to know that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office needed someone like him to build bridges between the Sikh community and the sheriff’s office because of a mishap that had happened prior, he asked his father for permission. Dhaliwal sold his business to take lower pay as a detention officer and worked his way up to be a deputy, Garcia told CNN.
Dhaliwal could wear his turban on duty because the Harris County Sheriff’s Office allowed Dhaliwal to wear his beard and turban on duty, according to CNN affiliate KTRK-TV. “As a Sikh American, I felt the need to represent the Sikh community in law enforcement,” Dhaliwal said at the time. “It will give me the chance to open up the conversation.” He was the first Texas law enforcement officer allowed to wear a turban on duty.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who called Dhaliwal a trailblazer who paved the way for many Sikh Americans to join the police force, told CNN in 2019 that the fallen officer “wore the turban, he represented his community with integrity, respect and pride and he was respected by all.”