In a brazen attack, a Sikh police officer was shot dead in the US state of Texas during during a mid-day traffic stop.
Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, 42, was the Harris County Sheriff’s first-ever Sikh Deputy and had been pushing for a historic expansion of religious rights in the department.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Sandeep Dhaliwal, a 10-year veteran of the department, stopped a vehicle with a man and woman inside and one of them got out and shot him “ambush-style” at least twice in a “ruthless, cold-blooded way.”
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is “deeply grieved” to learn of the shooting of Indian-American Sikh police officer in Houston. He also extended his condolences to the family of the deceased.
The shooting comes just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the mega “Howdy, Modi!” event in Houston attended by over 50,000 Indian-Americans across the US.
In an “unprecedented” gesture, President Donald Trump had also joined Modi at the community event – the first time that an American president had addressed thousands of Indian-Americans at one place in the US.
Dhaliwal pulled over a vehicle around 12.45 pm. on Friday in the 14800 block of Willancy Court in the Cypress area, Harris County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Mike Lee told reporters.
According to Lee, dashcam video showed that Dhaliwal and the suspect, Robert Solis, 47, still in his car, having a conversation with no sign of confrontation.
A few seconds after Dhaliwal returned to his squad car, the suspect ran up and shot him in the head multiple times, Lee said. Dhaliwal was airlifted to the hospital, where he died.
Solis was charged late Friday with capital murder in the case.
Lee said the suspect, after shooting the officer, went to a store nearby. After a brief search, authorities detained Solis, who has a criminal record that includes convictions for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping and driving while intoxicated.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia praised Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal as a trailblazer and an example for many.
Since 2015, Sandeep Dhaliwal was the “history-making” police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard. He was allowed to wear the turban and beard while patrolling the streets in order to bolster cultural diversity.
Dhaliwal had also worked with United Sikhs, a global humanitarian relief and advocacy nonprofit, to help organize the donation of truckloads of supplies for first responders after Harvey.
(With agency inputs)