The Harris County Sheriff deputy who was shot during a traffic stop and later died Friday was a 10-year veteran with a "heart of gold."
Sandeep Dhaliwal was shot in the 14000 block of Willancy Court at West Road on Friday, near Highway 6 and the Northwest Freeway. Dhaliwal was transported by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, where he later died at the hospital, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
“He was a hero, a respected member of the community and a trailblazer,” Gonzalez said.
Dhaliwal was in his early 40s, married and a father of three.
Gonzalez said Dhaliwal was a well-liked and respected deputy who was a leader with the department.
“For me, personally, I’m heartbroken because he’s a personal friend of mine,” Gonzalez said.
Deputy Dhaliwal, the first member of the Sikh community to become a Harris County Sheriff deputy, left a legacy of giving, Sheriff Gonzalez said.
“He represented his community with integrity, respect and pride,” Gonzalez added. “He was respected by all.”
In 2009, Deputy Dhaliwal gave up lucrative work as an entrepreneur with a trucking company. After hearing then-sheriff Adrian Garcia speak at a Sikh temple.
“He wanted to pursue his calling of public service and consulted with his father about getting permission to join the department,” said Garcia, now a Harris County Commissioner. “He did and he did so very quietly. I met him many times but did not understand the circumstances by which he came to us.”
Garcia recruited Deputy Dhaliwal to the sheriff’s office. Garcia called Dhaliwal a “consummate public servant you’d want and expect to see in uniform.”
“He had a heart of gold...He treated his brothers and sisters in law enforcement as brothers and sisters; he thought of them before he thought of himself,” Garcia said. “He thought of the broader community before he thought of himself.”
Dhaliwal, a Sikh American, was the first member of the Sikh community to join the Harris County Sheirff’s Office. In 2015, he received national attention when he became the first Texas deputy approved to wear his turban and beard while in uniform. Both represent the Sikh's articles of faith and commitment to equality, service and justice.
Gonzalez said because of Dhaliwal stepping forward to join the department, fellow Sikh Americans followed him.
While representing the Sikh community, Deputy Dhaliwal made international news by wearing his turban while on patrol. He opened doors for others. The office now has other employees who are members of the same community, Sheriff Gonzalez said.
“He was just a solid man, a pillar of the community and as good as gold,” said Sgt. David Cuevas, president of the Harris County Deputy Organization.
When another deputy’s family in Puerto Rico needed help after Hurricane Maria, Deputy Dhaliwal volunteered. He traveled there with others to personally deliver relief.
One year after Hurricane Harvey, Deputy Dhaliwal brought in volunteers from California and an 18-wheeler loaded with a million dollars' worth of supplies to assist colleagues and neighbors who lost homes.
Even at home, Deputy Dhaliwal served and cared for his mom who recently died of cancer, friends said.
“We were together through that difficult circumstance,” Garcia said. “So this is my family and it’s very, very difficult.”
Of all the things Dhaliwal gave, his life mattered most. Fellow deputies said they plan to follow and live out Dhaliwal’s legacy of giving.
David Cuevas, president of the Harris County Deputies’ Organization, called Deputy Dhaliwal a pillar in the community.
“He’s as great as they come,” Cuevas said. “This is a very trying time. It’s very tough on us, but we’re going to continue to do our jobs.”
In 2015, after a fellow deputy was killed, Dhaliwal started the #BlueHouston hashtag as a way for the community to show its support for fallen deputy Darren Goforth and all law enforcement. Goforth was shot and killed as he left a gas station in northwest Harris County.
“Just show your support for police officers—that’s all we want,” Dhaliwal said after Goforth’s death.
Dhaliwal said in 2015 Goforth “is one of the reasons I am in uniform today.”