HOUSTON – Editor’s note: Through the end of the year, click2houston.com is looking back at the biggest stories of the year, based on what was most popular on our website this year.
It has been a hard year for law enforcement in the Greater Houston area. The men and women who serve our communities put their lives on the line each day to ensure public safety.
Five officers -- Deputy Bryan Pfluger, Sgt. Kaila Sullivan, Sgt. Christopher Brewster, Deputy Sheriff Sandeep Dhaliwal and Deputy Sheriff Omar Diaz -- lost their lives in 2019.
San Jacinto County deputy Bryan Pfluger
Pfluger was killed in a car crash on Dec. 21 while responding to a burglary call near Coldspring.
The 36-year-old deputy hit another patrol car on State Highway 150 and Hill Lane around 8 p.m. Both units were traveling eastbound on State Highway 150. One vehicle reduced its speed to make a right turn on to Hill Lane when Pfluger’s vehicle clipped the slowing patrol car and rolled over several times. During the crash, the deputy was thrown from his vehicle, according to DPS.
The four-year veteran of the force was transported to a Livingston hospital where he was pronounced dead. The other deputy was not visibly injured but was transported to a local hospital as a precaution, according to DPS.
Pfluger was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, according to DPS.
Pfluger leaves behind a son.
Nassau Bay Sgt. Kaila Sullivan
Sullivan, 43, was killed during a traffic stop on Dec. 10 when the suspect she was attempting to arrest, broke free, jumped in a vehicle and ran her over, officials said. The 16-year veteran of the Nassau Bay Police Department was rushed to a hospital, but she succumbed to her injuries.
The suspect is 21-year-old Tavores Henderson. After a two-day search, the police apprehended Henderson without incident and charged him with capital murder.
Henderson’s mother, Tiffany Henderson, and her boyfriend, Geoffrey Wheeler, were also charged for hindering the apprehension of the felon. The two are accused of picking Tavores Henderson and taking him to a motel before returning to her home in Sunnyside, where the cops were looking for him, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
Police Sgt. Sullivan is remembered as a mother, leader and model officer.
“(Kaila) was a north star to all those who met her,” said Jared Sullivan, the officer’s brother during her funeral at Grace Church in Houston. “But most importantly, she taught us how to love. This world needs more people like Sgt. Kaila Sullivan.”
Sullivan was the first line-of-duty death in the history of Nassau Bay, a town of 4,500 residents boarded by water on three sides.
“Kaila’s loss is a tragedy,” said Nassau Bay Mayor Mark Denman during a news conference. “Our citizens have praised Kaila, all these years. Not just today and after this terrible event, but up until now. She’s highly regarded in our city."
Denman also declared Dec. 29, which would have been Kaila Sullivan’s anniversary date of service with the Nassau Bay Police Department, as Kaila Sullivan day in the city.
Nassau Bay Police Chief Tim Cromie choked back tears as he described the sergeant that was part of his 14-officer team.
“Sgt. Sullivan, Kaila, was an outgoing individual," he said. “She was a leader in this department. She helped mold some of the officers that are behind me.”
Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal
Dhaliwal, a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sherriff’s Office, was gunned down in northwest Harris County on Sept. 27.
Officials said the suspect identified as Robert Solis, 47, shot the deputy from behind at least twice during a traffic stop. Dhaliwal died after being flown to a hospital. Earlier this month, Solis was indicted on capital murder and will likely face the death penalty.
Dhaliwal was described as a trailblazer and humanitarian.
In 2015, he made history as the first person allowed to keep a beard and wear a dastar, or turban, while on patrol, a requirement of his religion.
The Houston Police Department announced in November the expansion of its religious accommodations policy so people from religious minority communities may wear articles of faith while on duty. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said while the department was already working on expanding its policy, the death of Harris County deputy expediated the process. The policy will be named after Dhaliwal.
“We have spoken a great deal and continue to speak a great deal about the diversity of our community,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "But diversity doesn’t mean much if it’s not about being inclusive.
“He was humble, fearless, not dissuaded by negativity,” said Army Capt. Simratpal Singh. “He truly saw the human race as one, and he spoke the language of love.”
Amy Lascoe, a friend of Dhaliwal, spoke about the deputy’s desire to educate others about his religion while serving the community.
“My world was made all the richer because of knowing Officer Dhaliwal,” Lascoe said.
Cruz said an examination of Dhaliwal’s life showed his commitment to his faith, family and community.
“We’re here today, celebrating a hero,” said Cruz. “His legacy of selfless service will live on."
Houston police Sgt. Christopher Brewster
Brewster was gunned down on Dec. 7 while responding to a domestic disturbance in east Houston.
The 32-year-old sergeant was assisting other officers when he found a victim and the 25-year-old Arturo Solis. When Brewster approached the couple outside near the home where the initial call was made, Solis shot at the sergeant several times, officials said. The sergeant drew his pistol, called for backup and provided critical information about the suspect. Brewster was later pronounced dead.
Solis, who fled the scene after the shooting, was later apprehended and charged with capital murder. He confessed during an interview with detectives, prosecutors said. He was indicted in December, and the judge expects Solis to receive the death penalty.
Brewster, a 9-year veteran, was described as "the epitome of the selfless service of a Houston police officer.”
During his funeral, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner recounted a conversation he had with Brewster’s widow about the fallen officer’s love of planting fruit trees. He noted that those types of trees provide shade and help hold the ground together, which he called a metaphor for Brewster’s life.
“He found his purpose, and he lived his purpose,” Turner said. “He did his job until the very last second.”
Turner also declared Dec. 12 to be Sgt. Christopher Brewster Day in Houston.
Harris County sheriff’s Deputy Omar Diaz
Omar Diaz is remembered for his commitment to public service and helping others.
Diaz died on July 6 after suffering a medical emergency while responding to a stabbing in northwest Houston. He collapsed while outside the property and was rushed to North Cypress Medical Center. He could not be revived.
A medical examiner said Diaz had a blood clot that traveled to his lungs from another part of his body. The manner of death ruled natural.
The fallen deputy is a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, beginning his career as a detention officer in 2009. He accomplished his lifelong dream to become a deputy in 2018.
“His father was telling me that it was just always his dream to be a deputy,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. “He worked extremely hard every step of the way whenever there was another milestone that he needed to reach, another step that he needed to advance.”
Diaz excelled as a deputy and was well-liked by both his supervisors and colleagues. Gonzalez said everyone at the Sheriff’s Office was impressed by his work ethic and passion for the job.
“We’re out there to serve and protect, and that’s exactly what he was doing -- living his passion out there this morning when he was out assisting others,” said Gonzalez.