Tributes have poured in for a “trailblazing” Sikh sheriff’s deputy in the US after he was killed on duty.
Authorities said Sandeep Dhaliwal died after being shot from behind during a traffic stop in Texas on Friday. A man has been arrested and charged with murder. The motive is not known.
Deputy Dhaliwal made history as the first Sikh to become a sheriff’s deputy in Texas’s Harris County.
He also received permission to wear his turban and beard while on patrol.
“He wore a turban, he represented his community with integrity, respect and pride,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
The Harris County sheriff said Deputy Dhaliwal “was a hero, he was a respected member of the community and he was a trailblazer”.
Officers shared photographs and videos of a “community-led” candlelight vigil held on Saturday to honour the sheriff’s deputy. Many residents also shared tributes to him on social media.
A video from one local resident showed Deputy Dhaliwal laughing as he allowed her son to handcuff him and then set him free. “He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,” she said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Deputy Dhaliwal 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”.
“He was a walking lesson in tolerance and understanding,” he added.
Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the New York-based Sikh Coalition, described Deputy Dhaliwal as a “gem of a person” and a “beautiful soul”, according to the Associated Press news agency.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said 47-year-old Robert Solis was charged with murder over Deputy Dhaliwal’s death. Authorities have not speculated on a motive for the attack but Sheriff Gonzalez said Mr Solis had an “active patrol violation warrant” for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon from 2017.
A funeral is set to take place on Wednesday.
Sikhism was founded more than 500 years ago in the Indian region of Punjab and has about 27 million followers around the world and more than 500,000 in the US. Male followers often cover their heads with turbans and refrain from shaving their beards.
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