A Texas sheriff’s deputy and observant Sikh who made national headlines after being granted permission to wear his turban and beard while in uniform was fatally shot Friday during a routine traffic stop.
Sandeep Dhaliwal pulled over a car just before 12:30 p.m. and had what appeared to be a peaceful interaction with the driver, according to Maj. Mike Lee of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, who addressed the shooting in a press conference.
In a review of the dash cam footage, Lee said that, at first, “it looked to just be conversational ― there was no combat, no arguing, just looked like a routine traffic stop that we conduct every day.”
However, as Dhaliwal walked back to his patrol car, the civilian ― who has since been identified as 47-year-old Robert Solis ― pulled out a gun within seconds, and “ran up from behind and basically ambushed” him, shooting him in the back of the head, Lee said.
Two houses away from the scene, a woman doing yard work outside heard two shots fired, and spotted Solis fleeing the scene. She then checked on Dhaliwal and called 911, prompting officers from multiple precincts to begin searching for the gunman.
Police tracked Solis down at a business less than a quarter mile away from the scene.
“A deputy observed that he looked a little nervous and put him in custody,” Lee said. “And that did turn out to be our shooter.”
Police have also taken a woman into custody who was a passenger in Solis’ car.
Solis has been charged with capital murder. There was also an active parole violation warrant out against him for aggravated assault, dating back to January 2017, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Dhaliwal’s death has been deeply felt in his community where those who knew him have begun sharing tributes on social media. One Harris County resident who sent a video to the sheriff’s office of Dhaliwal playing with her deaf son recalled that he “laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression” on the boy.