Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal’s memory was honoured by Houston authorities who renamed a portion of a tollway after the slain Indian-American police officer, PTI reported. Dhaliwal, the first Sikh sheriff’s deputy in Harris county, was shot dead on duty during a traffic stop last year.
The Harris County Toll Road Authority put up the sign ‘HCSO Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Memorial Tollway’ near Texas 249 in the memory of Dhaliwal. A ceremony was also performed at the Gurdwara Sikh National Centre on the occasion.
The 42-year-old had pulled over a driver for running a stop sign, and as he walked back to his patrol office, the man got out of his car to shoot him several times. The man was identified by investigators as Robert Solis, who turned out to be a fugitive with a lengthy criminal history.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who hired Dhaliwal 10 years ago, said, “I was honoured to commemorate a section of the Beltway 8 as ‘Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Memorial Tollway’ to honour one of HC’s finest who paid the ultimate sacrifice. His family attended the ceremony.” Sim Singh, senior manager for policy and advocacy for the Sikh Coalition, said Dhaliwal was a hero to the community and many religious minorities who aspired to have a career in public service. He said they are still continuing to fight for religious equality, a road Dhaliwal helped build.
“It’s historic and it’s a meaningful gesture to the Sikh community,” he said.
The death of the beloved deputy sparked massive change within the sheriff’s department.
Last month, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher introduced a bill to rename a west Harris County post office to ‘Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office’. The bill passed unanimously.
“Deputy Dhaliwal represented the very best of our community: he worked for equality, connection, and community through his life of service to others,” Fletcher said at the time.
Since his murder, local law enforcement agencies have changed policies to include members of the Sikh faith.
“Dhaliwal was a trailblazer, hero and role model. Gone but not forgotten. We miss our friend and brother,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez was quoted as saying.
Dhaliwal, a father of three, made national headlines when he was allowed to grow beard and wear his turban on duty.
“It obviously changed our world upside down both as an agency and me personally, being that I had a personal relationship with Sandeep and his family,” Gonzalez was quoted by PTI as saying .
Since the murder, the Houston Police Department and the county’s eight constables have changed policies to allow officers on duty to wear turbans and carry religious items.
The sheriff’s office now has two Sikh deputies, and in January, Precinct 1 became the first local agency to swear-in a deputy constable wearing a turban.