Houston: Thousands of people from all walks of life including police officers, Sikh believers, Indian-Americans and Houston-area residents turned out for the day-long ceremonies early Wednesday to honour slain police officer Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was shot dead on duty during a traffic stop last week.
Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal (42), was the first Sikh sheriff’s deputy in Harris County with a population of over 10,000 Sikhs. Dhaliwal made national headlines when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job. He was gunned down while conducting Friday a routine mid-day traffic stop in the northwest area of this city, Friday.
The fallen deputy’s funeral included processions, a traditional Sikh funeral and a law enforcement funeral with a 21-gun salute from fellow officers and a helicopter flyover.
As ‘Amazing Grace’ was played on the bagpipes, members of HCSO folded the American flag that covered his casket and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez presented it to Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal’s widow who clutched it to her heart.
After final ceremonies from the law enforcement memorial service at Berry Centre, the Dhaliwal family and members of HCSO headed to the Winford Funeral Home for a closed cremation. Following a final prayer by the Dhaliwal family, HCSO officers moved his casket into a hearse to escort it to the funeral home for a cremation.
The rest of the community and mourners were invited to Gurdwara Sikh National Center at 7500 North Sam Houston Parkway West for the langar (communal meal).
The procession route was lined with blue and white signs reading ‘Always in Our Hearts’, and ‘In Loving Memory of Deputy Dhaliwal’.
The Sikh National Centre had requested a dress code for those attending the ceremonies to be navy blue, just like the Harris County Sheriff’s Office uniform.
At the service, Simratpal Singh, a US army captain, flanked by other members of the Sikh community in military service, described Dhaliwal as ‘humble, fearless, not dissuaded by negativity’. “Our lion may be gone physically but his legacy of selfless service and of breaking down barriers will continue to live,” Simratpal Singh said.
Dhaliwal, the father of three joined the force 10 years back and was the state’s first law enforcement officer to receive permission to wear a religious turban and beard while on duty.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia who hired Dhaliwal 10 years ago said the stadium full of people and the deputy’s celebration of life was ‘fit for a king’.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the nation’s first Sikh to be in that position, said Dhaliwal ‘inspired an entire generation of Sikhs’ to join public service.
Dhaliwal was killed in the town of Cypress after pulling over a vehicle for running a stop sign. Investigators said video from a dashboard camera shows the suspect, 47-year-old Robert Solis, getting out of his car, approaching Dhaliwal from behind and shooting him twice in the head.
Solis, who has been charged with capital murder, was arrested at a nearby grocery parking lot.