Texas Man Gets Death Penalty for Killing US' First Turbaned Sikh Police Officer

Robert Solis was convicted by a jury for the capital murder of Sandeep Dhaliwal during a traffic stop in Houston.

South Asians
3 min read
Texas Man Gets Death Penalty for Killing US' First Turbaned Sikh Police Officer
Hindi Female

The man convicted for the murder of Sandeep Dhaliwal, the first turbaned Indian-American Sikh police officer in Texas, was sentenced to death on Thursday, 27 October, a police official said.

Robert Solis, 50, was convicted by a jury in Houston’s Harris County Court for the capital murder of Dhaliwal during a traffic stop in 2019. Dhaliwal, 42, was a 10-year-veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. 

Solis showed no emotion as the sentence was read on Wednesday.

A jury comprised of citizens handed the verdict recommending the death penalty as punishment after deliberating for just 35 minutes. The jury also deliberated for 25 minutes during initial pleas of guilt. 

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted:  “Verdict is in: Jurors sentence Robert Solis to death. We are extremely grateful that justice has been served,” 

Dhaliwal gained popularity after making national headlines for being allowed to wear a turban and grow a beard on the job. 


The Incident

In an ambush-style shooting, Solis shot Dhaliwal in northwest Houston, while the latter was conducting a routine mid-day traffic stop on 27 September, 2019.

“…Basically just shot him in a very ruthless, cold-blooded way,” said Sheriff Gonzalez in 2019.

After Dhaliwal stopped Solis in a residential neighbourhood and waled back to his patrol car, he was shot multiple times from the back. 

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement: 

"The defendant executed a uniformed deputy by shooting him in cold blood in broad daylight. That makes him the worst of the worst, which is why we asked jurors to sentence him to death.” 

The Trial 

During the trial, Jurors saw several angles of the shooting incident and heard testimony from at least 65 prosecution witnesses, all contributing to details of Solis’ 30 year long criminal history. 

Solis, who represented himself after firing three defence attorneys, testified that the shooting was an accident.

However, prosecutors argued that the shooting was deliberate and intentional, owed to Solis’ fears of going back to jail. Solia had an outstanding warrant for violating his parole agreement at the time of the incident, according to CBS News

During Solis’ closing argument, he used the last chance to address jurors by saying, “The only thing I have to say is that it’s your decision to make. My life is in your hands,” according to KTRK-TV Houston


Solis also caused several delays in trial proceedings, and previously had told the judge he was sick and also that he had not been given enough time to prepare. 

Prosecutors had told jurors that Solis had a lengthy criminal record of robberies and sexual predation leading up to Dhaliwal's killing.

Prosecutors also told the Jury of Soli’s lengthy criminal record as a sexual predator and of robberies he committed as well.

Dhaliwal's father was a police officer in India before he moved to the United States, taking his family with him. Prior to his job with the force, Dhaliwal owned a truck business which was reportedly quite 'lucrative'.

In his 20s, Dhaliwal was inspired to join the force when he heard that the Harris County Sheriff's office was looking for a Sikh to join the force. Even though it meant a huge pay cut, he took the opportunity, sold his business and became a civilian detention officer, CNN reported.

In doing so, he became the first Indian-American police officer in Texas. Over time, he earned his peace officer’s licence, going on to become the first Sikh deputy in Harris county.

The 42-year-old slain cop worked at the Harris County Sheriff's office for ten years and earned a promotion to deputy in 2015.

Dhaliwal's focus, however, wasn't just his job with the Sheriff's office.


He also worked with United Sikhs, an international nonprofit, non-governmental, humanitarian relief, human development and advocacy organisation affiliated with the United Nations.

At the organisation, Dhaliwal served in a role which involved advising Sikh communities on dealing with potential hate crime threats and advocating for their religious rights, CNN reported.

His efforts there included organising the donation of supplies for first responders after Hurricane Harvey devastated the county. Dhaliwal also went to Puerto Rico to help with relief after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

In addition, Dhaliwal was a member of the Sikh National Center in Houston. According to its chair Hardam Azad, Dhaliwal would often speak with young people at the center, showing his sheriff's badge.

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Topics:  Sikh   Indian Americans   Sandeep Dhaliwal 

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