Several vigils were held recently to honor the memory of Sandeep Dhaliwal, a sheriff's deputy in Harris County, Texas, who was fatally shot from behind Sept. 27 during a routine traffic stop.

On Oct. 4, in Northern California, the Sacramento Valley community gathered in the state capital to pay tribute to the Indian American officer. The vigil was attended by more than 1,000 people, with individuals from the interfaith and intercultural community of the Valley, including the cities of Lodi, Galt, Yuba city, Roseville, Folsom, Elk Grove, Manteca, Tracy and Stockton, among others.

Dhaliwal was a trailblazer and a pioneer for the Sikh community, with his drive and ambition he became the first dastar-wearing Sikh sheriff's deputy in the U.S., thus opening doors for many others to follow behind him, Inderjit Kallirai, who was part of the organizers of the vigil, wrote in an email provided to India-West.

Deputy Dhaliwal's contribution to society demonstrated the true spirit of a humanitarian and a caring individual who went out of his way to help others. The love given by Dhaliwal has been echoed by the many thousands who attended his (Oct. 2) funeral and the thousands of candle-light vigils held in memory of Dhaliwal, Kallirai added.

In another vigil in Sacramento, held Oct. 5, dozens of dignitaries and community leaders spoke to honor Dhaliwal. Among them were Fremont Vice Mayor Raj Salwan, Fremont Councilmember Teresa Keng, state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, Fremont police Capt. Sean Washington and AC Transit board member Diane Shaw, among others. Hundreds of people attended the event. It concluded with a Sikh prayer by a local priest.

Meanwhile, in Pacoima, California, a vigil was held Oct. 6 at the Khalsa Care Foundation for Dhaliwal.

The special Ardaas or supplication in his memory was attended by Los Angeles Police Department officers from the Foothill Community police station. The officers who serve the Pacoima area showed respect for their fallen peer and the faith he belonged to.

Dhaliwal, the father of three young children who had served on the force since 2008, was considered a pioneer in the Sikh American community: in 2015, Dhaliwal became the first officer in Harris County who was allowed to wear his religiously-mandated turban and beard on the job. Besides his children, he leaves behind his wife Harwinder Kaur and parents. (See earlier story in India-West here: https://bit.ly/2IzZPIT)

Dhaliwal’s suspected killer, Robert Solis, was arrested the same evening and has been booked into Harris County Jail. He has been charged with capital murder of a police officer and is being held without bail. His next court appearance is Dec. 9; Solis has not entered a plea.

On the evening of his death, Dhaliwal stopped Solis at a traffic intersection. According to Gilliland, the Indian American officer asked Solis some questions and then went back towards his vehicle to verify the information.

As Dhaliwal walked to his car, Solis allegedly fired a single shot from a gun not licensed to him, hitting Solis in the back. He then fled.

Solis was arrested at a supermarket about two blocks away from the shooting. Dhaliwal was flown to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Thomas Gilliland, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, told India-West: “Sandeep was one of the finest men I have ever met in my life. He always treated people with respect and kindness, even the ones who were going to jail, who often don’t treat us very nicely.”

The Associated Press reports: A Texas sheriff's deputy who was described as "a trailblazer" for being the first Sikh deputy in his agency is being remembered for his compassion, warm smile and for a life marked by service to others.

Funeral services were held Oct. 2 near Houston for the 42-year-old Dhaliwal. He was fatally shot Sept. 27 during a traffic stop.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Dhaliwal was "a man of dedication, faith, love and compassion."

Thousands of people, including law enforcement personnel from the U.S. and Canada, attended the services, held at a sports arena.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the nation's first Sikh state's attorney general, said Dhaliwal "inspired an entire generation of Sikhs to

public service."

The suspect charged with Dhaliwal's murder remains jailed.

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