The man who gunned down the Houston area’s beloved first Sikh sheriff’s deputy could face the death penalty after he was convicted Monday of capital murder.
It took jurors less than an hour to convict Robert Solis for the 2019 death of Sandeep Dhaliwal.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, court records show, in a sentencing phase that started Monday afternoon.
Dhaliwal was Harris County’s first observant Sikh sheriff’s deputy. He gained national attention for helping change the department’s policy to allow articles of faith, such as a turban, to be worn while on the force.
In September 2019, Dhaliwal pulled over Solis, who was wanted for a parole violation, during a traffic stop.
As Dhaliwal was walking back to his patrol car, Solis shot the deputy in the back of his head.
A deputy who helped anyone and everyone
Dhaliwal paved the way for other law enforcement officers of the Sikh religion, which preaches equality and service to others.
“He wanted to show that a Sikh person with a turban is a symbol of someone who’s there to provide service, to provide help whenever you need it,” childhood friend BJ Josan said after the deputy’s death.
There are more than 25 million Sikhs around the world and about 500,000 in the US, according to The Sikh Coalition.
On or off duty, Dhaliwal was always finding ways to help strangers.
“He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,” a resident posted to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
After Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston in 2017, Dhaliwal organized people to help from California, CNN affiliate KTRK reported. The deputy had so many people and supplies lined up, they needed an 18-wheeler to ferry them into Houston, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Dhaliwal went to the island to help in any way he could, KTRK reported.
An ever-widening legacy
Even after his death, Dhaliwal made an impact on the law enforcement community.
In 2019, the nearby Houston Police Department announced a change to its uniform policy to allow officers to wear their articles of faith while serving.
Houston police were already working on a religious accommodation policy, then-Chief Art Acevedo said.
But after Dhaliwal was laid to rest, Acevedo couldn’t think of waiting another day without formalizing the department’s policy, he said.
Other police departments have made similar policy changes in recent years, including those in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Riverside, California.
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur contributed to this report.