MANTECA — Candles were burning bright in Manteca for a Texas deputy who was killed by a man he pulled over in a traffic stop.
“Something like this … everybody’s heartbroken. Everybody’s just sometimes questioning their own faith,” said Rex Dhat, the uncle of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal.
Dhat was one of more than 100 people gathered Monday to honor his nephew.
Dhaliwal was shot in the back of the head as he went back to his cruiser Friday in Houston, Texas.
Investigators say the gunman was a parole violator who chose murder to try to avoid a return trip to jail. Robert Solis was arrested about a half-mile from the scene.
Dhaliwal, a father of three young children, was the Central Valley’s point person for the Sikh community’s donation effort after Hurricane Harvey.
He met many in the area through visits to the massive Sikh Festival held every year in Yuba City.
He also touched people all over the world by fighting to represent his faith and Harris County by wearing the traditional turban while on patrol. Thousands believe him being the first to do so in the state of Texas has taught a lesson about all Sikhs.
“We are blessed that he was one of us,” said Parminder Singh Sahi. “He took the message to the American community that anybody could be a part of our society.”
Local law enforcement was proud to stand up for a man who wanted nothing more to than to serve.
“Whenever we have a fallen officer, no matter what community or no matter what department, it’s part of our family,” said San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Chaplain Larry Elliott.
“When I got into office about nine months ago, I changed our policy so they could wear the Sikh turban and could have facial hair,” said San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow. “And so that’s a new thing in our department. So we’re encouraging as many folks that want to come and work with us, men and women, to reach out to us and be part of our family.”
Those who knew Dhaliwal and those who admired him from afar want all he stood for to ignite others.
Dhaliwal’s mother passed away last year and he and his sister have been taking care of his father. United Sikhs has started a Facebook campaign for his family.