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Wolverhampton sister's tribute to tragic US sheriff shot dead

By Richard Guttridge | Wolverhampton | News | Published: | Last Updated:

The funeral is being held today for the police officer brother of a Wolverhampton councillor killed on duty in the US.

Deputy sheriff Sandeep Dhaliwal was killed on Friday

A city councillor has paid tribute to her hero police officer brother after he was killed on duty in Texas.

The death of “trailblazing” deputy sheriff Sandeep Dhaliwal has sparked an outpouring of grief in America and left his family devastated.

Mr Dhaliwal made history as the first Sikh to become deputy sheriff in Harris County, Texas, and had fought for the right to be able to wear his turban on duty.

He was shot dead near Houston during a routine traffic stop.

His funeral service was being held in Harris County, Texas, yesterday.

A memorial service has been organised for Saturday in Wolverhampton in recognition of his family links to the city after it emerged his sister was a member of the council.

Councillor Rupinderjit Kaur, 37, has represented the Spring Vale ward for Labour since 2015 and moved to the city from Blackburn two years earlier.

She was told of her brother’s killing on Friday after receiving a call from officials in the US.

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Senior figures in Texas have paid glowing tributes to Mr Dhaliwal, who was born in India and had lived in America for nearly 25 years.

Deputy Dhaliwal pictured with Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Picture: Ed Gonzalez

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner called him a “bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation, and around the world”.

Councillor Kaur said her family had always feared her brother’s job could put him in danger, especially because of much-publicised problems with gun crime and racism in America’s south.

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But she said she was proud of him for following his dream of becoming a police officer, despite the challenges of being a Sikh in Texas.

Councillor Kaur said: “When he said he was joining the police force we were scared but at the same time we were proud of his decision and supported him.”

Tributes have been paid to the deputy sheriff Sandeep Dhaliwal

The deputy sheriff was a hugely respected figure within the Texas police department.

He bravely carried out his duty despite the fact being a Sikh and wearing a turban made him stand out and a possible target.

Councillor Kaur said she had spoken with her brother on the phone shortly before he was killed and that he was due to come to the UK for Christmas.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday at Guru Nanak Gurdwara, on Sedgley Street, Wolverhampton, starting at 3pm, and all are invited.

'He was very brave'

"People say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time but I say he was in the right place because he was doing his duty.”

The words of heartbroken Rupinderjit Kaur, the Wolverhampton councillor whose “trailblazing” police officer brother was killed on duty in Texas.

Deputy sheriff Sandeep Dhaliwal has been hailed a hero after being shot dead during a routine traffic stop.

The father-of-three made history as the first Sikh to become a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County, Texas, and fought for five years for the right to wear a turban and beard on duty.

Ms Kaur, a Labour councillor for the city’s Spring Vale ward, has paid tribute to her brother and spoken of her pride that he bravely did his duty despite the challenges he faced in Texas.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday at Guru Nanak Gurdwara on Sedgley Street, Wolverhampton, starting at 3pm, and all are invited.

Councillor Rupinderjit Kaur

Both siblings were born in India. Mr Dhaliwal moved to America in 1995 and Ms Kaur to the UK in 2003.

She has been based in Wolverhampton since 2013 and became a councillor two years later.

Mr Dhaliwal was initially a truck driver in Texas but decided to follow his dream of becoming a police officer, a role he had served for the last 10 years rising up the ranks to become deputy sheriff.

The 41-year-old was shot in the head near Houston on Friday after a routine traffic stop turned deadly.

Ms Kaur said he had pulled the driver over for failing to stop at a stop sign. After speaking with the driver, he was returning to his vehicle when he was shot and killed, she said.

Mr Dhaliwal’s death has sparked an outpouring of emotion in the state. A “community-led” candlelit vigil was held on Saturday.

Harris County sheriff Ed Gonzalez described him as “hero” and a “trailblazer”, while Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said he was a “bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation, and around the world, because he sought and received permission to patrol while wearing the outward signs of his Sikh faith, including a turban and beard”.

Mr Gonzalez also spoke of the waves of community support while he was out on a night shift on Wednesday.

He tweeted: Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal protected this community and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"Community members shared memories of Sandeep and visited the makeshift memorial that has grown each day."

Ms Kaur, 37, said she last saw her bother two years ago and that he was due to fly to the UK for Christmas. She spoke on the phone with him the day he was killed about his plans to travel to India, where he helped fund girls’ education.

She said: “He started a business but it was not what he wanted. He wanted to go and work for the police.

“He was a fun person, very funny. Mum used to call him joker. He would laugh all day.”

Mr Dhaliwal broke down barriers in Texas and was eventually granted permission to wear his turban and beard on duty. But the fact he was different brought its difficulties.

Ms Kaur said: “When he said he was joining the police force we were scared but at the same time we were proud of his decision and supported him.

“A lot of officers have been shot and a lot of officers have died. In Texas crime is high and there is a problem with racism, especially after 9/11.

"A lot of Sikhs are targeted by people thinking they are Muslims because people aren’t aware of what Sikhs are and what Muslims are.

Sandeep Dhaliwal

“He decided to raise awareness of what we are and what we do. We were really proud of that achievement.”

She added: “When he walked down the street he would get funny looks but he would say ‘have you got a question?’. He would approach them and educate them.”

Ms Kaur said it was not yet known if the attack on her brother was racially motivated. She said the killer was on parole and feared going back to jail.

“If he wanted to escape he could have just driven off,” she said. “But he shot him twice in the head, maybe because he was wearing a turban.”

Mr Dhaliwal leaves behind his wife, two daughters, aged 13 and eight, and a three-year-old son.

Ms Kaur said: “We are very proud of him. Not just me but my whole family. When we were growing up no-one would have believed I would be in politics and he would be in the police.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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