HOUSTON - A sheriff's deputy described as "a trailblazer" because he was the first Sikh deputy of the Harris County Sheriff's Office when he joined the force 10 years ago, was shot and killed while making a traffic stop Friday near Houston.
Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, 42, was pronounced dead at Memorial Hermann Hospital after the 12:45 p.m. shooting in a residential cul-de-sac 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of Houston.
Dhaliwal had stopped a vehicle with two people inside when one of the occupants was able to leave the vehicle, approach the deputy from behind and shoot him at least twice -- "basically just shot him in a very ruthless, cold-blooded way," said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Gonzalez's predecessor as sheriff, Adrian Garcia, implemented a religious accommodation policy that allowed Dhaliwal to wear the traditional turban and beard of the Sikh religion.
Dhaliwal's dashboard camera captured video showing Dhaliwal speaking with the driver in what appeared to be a conversational tone with "no combat, no arguing," Sheriff's Maj. Mike Lee said. The driver's door was opened at one point, and Dhaliwal shut it as the driver remained in the vehicle. When Dhaliwal turned to walk back to his patrol car, the driver steps from the car "almost immediately running with a gun already out," Lee said. The driver shot the deputy from behind, hitting him in the back of the head. The driver got back in his car and drove away.
A deputy a short time later found and arrested a nervous man matching the description of the driver in a business at a nearby strip shopping center, Lee said. A woman believed to have been a passenger in the car also was taken into custody. Their identities haven't been released.
Gonzelez recounted how Dhaliwal worked with United Sikhs, an international nonprofit, non-governmental, humanitarian relief, human development and advocacy organization affiliated with the United Nations. Dhaliwal worked with the nonprofit to organize the donation of supplies for first responders after Hurricane Harvey devastated the county. He also went to Puerto Rico to help with relief after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
"He was a hero. Deputy Dhaliwal was a trailblazer," Gonzalez said.
Dhaliwal was the father of three children.
"There are no words to speak to how heartbroken we are, how devastated," the sheriff said.
Dhaliwal is the second Texas deputy to die while making a traffic stop this year. El Paso County Deputy Peter Herrera was fatally shot during a March traffic stop in San Elizario, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of El Paso. Both occupants of the car were charged with capital murder and await trial.