Sikh US cop fatally shot at multiple times; ‘deeply grieved’, says India
An Indian-American Sikh police officer was shot at multiple times from behind and killed in “ruthless, cold-blooded way” during a traffic stop in Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, a senior police official said Saturday.
The victim, Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, was in his early 40s. Harris County Sheriff’s deputy, he was also the first police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard.
News agency ANI quoted External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s comment on the murder: “Deeply grieved to learn of the shooting of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, a Sikh Indian-American officer in Houston, USA. We have just visited that city. My condolences to his family.”
Gonzalez said 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. The shooter was seen running to a shopping centre nearby, officials said, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
Investigators were able to identify what the shooter looked like by watching Dhaliwal’s dashcam video.
“They looked at his dashcam to see what the suspect looked like, took a photo of the suspect on the scene with their phone and got that out to our intel people,” Press Trust of India quoted Gonzalez.
The vehicle the shooter was driving was found and the gunman and the woman were taken into custody, officials said.
Dhaliwal was married and a father to three children.
“Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was a trailblazer. He was an example for many. He represented his community with respect and pride,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia.
“Deputy Dhaliwal is known to everybody as someone with a giving heart,” Gonzalez said. “Post (Hurricane) Harvey, when we needed the help most, he brought an 18-wheeler of people that he gathered together, that came all the way from California to deliver goods to our community.”
In 2015, Dhaliwal made history by making” police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith. He was allowed to wear the turban and beard while patrolling the streets in order to bolster cultural diversity.
With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the country had affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service. Since 9/11, misperceptions about Sikhs’ religiously mandated turbans and beards have led to an increase in discrimination against the community.
Policy changes like that at the Harris County Sheriff Office and other law enforcement agencies across the country aim to combat this stigma while also giving qualified men and women a chance to serve the community.
Dhaliwal worked with United Sikhs, a global humanitarian relief and advocacy non-profit, to help organize the donation of truckloads of supplies for first responders after Harvey.
(With agency inputs)