'Go out and be a Sandeep Dhaliwal': Houston honors fallen deputy

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - People from across the Houston area spent Wednesday honoring fallen Harris County sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, who was killed in the line of duty last week.

Dhaliwal was shot from behind at least twice during a traffic stop in northwest Harris County. He died after being flown to a hospital.

Since his death, Dhaliwal has been remembered as a kind and generous person who entered law enforcement to serve the community he dearly loved.

Dhaliwal is being honored in a series of events Wednesday. Here is a closer look at how Houston and Harris County paid respects to the fallen deputy.

PHOTOS: Houston honors fallen Harris County deputy

The procession

Dhaliwal’s body left a funeral home about 7:45 a.m. bound for the Berry Center, where his funeral services will take place.

As a procession of law enforcement vehicles escorted the hearse carrying Dhaliwal’s body, people lined the streets leading to the Berry Center. Some waved flags, while others removed their hats and placed their hands over their hearts.

A cordon of deputies lined the walkway leading to the Berry Center and saluted as his casket was brought inside, followed by his family.

The viewing

Dhaliwal’s comrades opened his flag-draped casket and placed a badge and nameplate on this uniform before the public viewing began.

One by one, mourners filed past Dhaliwal’s body as devotional hymns that reference the Sikh religious text, called the Guru Granth Sahib, were played.

A 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Dhaliwal made history in 2015 when he was allowed to keep his beard and wear a dastar, or turban, while on patrol – a requirement of his religion.

The casket was closed about 10:15 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke to members of the Dhaliwal family as the viewing ended.

Kirtan: The Sikh ceremony

Dhaliwal’s faith was the focus of the first of two funerals held to celebrate the slain deputy’s life.

A group began the traditional Sikh religious ceremony, called the Kirtan, by singing shabad, which are devotional hymns that reference tenants of the religion.

“One who accepts the divine will finds peace,” said a priest as he explained one of the hymns that was sung. “They never cry, they never weep -- those who understand the divine will.”

Members of the Sikh community remembered Dhaliwal as an exemplary man, who was driven by his desire to help others.

“Service to fellow human beings was central to Sandeep’s life,” one speaker said.

Some uniformed members of the Sikh community from around the country stood on the stage as Dhaliwal was remembered as a trailblazer and a humanitarian.

“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.”

The final salute

As bagpipes belted out “Amazing Grace,” members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office paid their final respects to Dhaliwal with a salute of his flag-draped casket.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he didn’t know Dhaliwal, but the stories he has heard helped him understand the deep love of community and service the slain deputy held.

“Sandeep will never be forgotten,” Patrick said. “Sandeep Dhaliwal was great because he was first a servant.”

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who was sheriff at the time Dhaliwal became a deputy, said Dhaliwal held a special place in his heart.

“Sandeep was love, and the Dhaliwals are my family,” Garcia said as he spoke to members of the Dhaliwal family. “You raised a good man … You gave us your only son.”

Garcia recounted one big lesson Dhaliwal taught him.

“If we just approach each other from a level of decency a lot of good can come from it,” Garcia said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner expressed gratitude to Dhaliwal’s family for the deputy’s service.

“He reminds us that one person, one person can make a difference, and he has,” Turner said. “If we value the life he led, we must continue to serve others.”

Turner ended his remarks by declaring that Oct. 2 will forever be known as Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal Day in the city of Houston.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is also the first Sikh attorney general in the United States, said there are not enough words to express the grief being felt over the loss of Dhaliwal.

“He was the ultimate embodiment of selfless service,” Grewal said. “We honor Sandeep for making the ultimate sacrifice.”

Sgt. Adam Lightfoot, Dhaliwal’s commanding officer for six years, recounted the deputy’s exuberance and genuine love of his job. 

“He was a blast to work with, a comedian, and an infectious smile,” Lightfoot said. “He was an uplifting spirit.”

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Dhaliwal isn’t a hero because of how he died, but instead because of how he lived his life.

“He saw in our profession the ability to serve with a deeper purpose,” Gonzalez said. “People like Sandeep make us all better.”

Gonzalez said he will miss Dahliwal’s smile and thanked his family for sharing him with the community.

“Sandeep has touched so many people, as you can see in this room,” Gonzalez said. “There is hope, because we carry him with us.” 

Gonzalez ended by issuing a challenge.

“Go out and be a Sandeep Dhaliwal,” Gonzalez said.

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