Convict accused of killing Sikh Texas deputy will likely face death penalty, judge says

The deputy had gained national attention in 2015 when he was permitted to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job to observe his Sikh faith.
Image:
Robert Solis, 47, who is accused in the shooting death of Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse on Sept. 30, 2019, in Houston.Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle via AP

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The man accused of gunning down a Texas deputy who was celebrated when he was permitted to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job to observe his Sikh faith will likely face the death penalty, a judge said Monday.

Robert Solis, 47, was arrested on suspicion of capital murder in connection with the shooting of Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal during an afternoon traffic stop on Friday. Evidence does not suggest the "ambush-style" attack was a hate crime, police said.

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Solis, who was convicted of kidnapping in 2002 and was wanted for violating parole at the time of the shooting, will be held without bond, Harris County Judge Chris Morton said during a court hearing Monday morning.

"It's a likely outcome that death be the sentence here," Morton added, according to NBC affiliate KPRC.

Dhaliwal, 41, attracted national attention in 2015 when the Harris County department became the nation's largest sheriff's office to allow a Sikh to police while wearing his articles of faith, including his turban and his beard.

The 10-year veteran of the department was known locally as a public servant with a big heart, who volunteered his time assisting with hurricane relief not just at home, but also in Puerto Rico and Louisiana.

"He was an exemplary person, exemplary deputy. He was just loved by so many people, his teammates, community and everybody," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. "He just had this positive energy about him and this light that unfortunately was dimmed much too soon."

A candlelight vigil will be held for Dhaliwal on Monday night and his funeral is scheduled for Wednesday, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. He is survived by his wife, three children and a brother.

Gonzalez said the department was receiving calls from people from all over the country who want to come to the services to honor Dhaliwal.