A Texas man has been convicted of capital murder for the 2019 shooting of Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, the first Sikh police officer in the state permitted to wear a turban while on duty.
Robert Solis was pulled over by Dhaliwal during a routine traffic stop on the afternoon of Sept. 27, 2019. Dashcam footage shows a peaceful interaction until the deputy returned to his car and Solis ran after him with a gun.
Solis “basically ambushed” Dhaliwal, “shot him and struck him in the back of the head,” Harris County Sheriff’s Office Major Mike Lee said in the aftermath. A woman doing yard work at the time reported hearing two gunshots and seeing the suspect flee in a getaway vehicle.
Jurors reportedly took less than 30 minutes to find Solis guilty of capital murder. But Solis, for his part, insisted that it was all an accident.
“Because of the position that I had the weapon, I lost control of it,” Solis, who had been defending himself after firing his attorneys, told the jurors. “In trying to recover the weapon, I accidentally pulled the trigger and it discharged.”
Prosecutors, on the other hand, argued that his actions were intentional.
“This is an act. This is a choice. This is intent, and he comes running up to that man with a gun and he shoves him up against the car,” prosecutor Lauren Bard said.
However, Solis, who had an outstanding warrant at the time, admitted to giving Dhaliwal a false name when he was pulled over. Still, he insisted it was “not a reason to jump out of the car and cold-bloodily kill someone.”
Dhaliwal, who died at 42, gained national attention in 2015 when he became the first deputy permitted to wear a turban and keep a beard while on active duty in Texas. He was also Harris County Sheriff’s Office first Sikh deputy, serving for 10 years.
His relatives reportedly expressed relief after hearing Solis’ guilty verdict. They are set to testify in the punishment phase.