By Darren Lyn
HOUSTON, US (AA) - A Texas man was sentenced to death Wednesday for the 2019 murder of the first Sikh deputy in the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
Robert Solis, 50, gunned down Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, 42, after Dhaliwal pulled Solis over during a routine traffic stop in a residential neighborhood and was walking back to his patrol car.
Solis shot Dhaliwal multiple times from behind in what Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez described at the time as a "very ruthless, cold-blooded way."
"Verdict is in: Jurors sentence Robert Solis to death. We are extremely grateful that justice has been served," Gonzalez tweeted after the decision was handed down. "Sandeep changed our Sheriff’s Office family for the better, and we continue striving to live up to his example of servant leadership. May he Rest In Peace."
During the trial, Solis testified in his own defense and told jurors he had accidentally shot Dhaliwal.
However, prosecutors argued that Solis deliberately shot Dhaliwal because he didn't want to go back to jail. At the time of the traffic stop, Solis had an arrest warrant for violating parole.
Not only was Dhaliwal the first Sikh deputy in Gonzalez's Texas agency, he was a trailblazer in the department, which implemented a religious accommodation policy that allowed Dhaliwal to wear the traditional turban and beard of the Sikh religion.
Gonzalez also said Dhaliwal -- the father of three children -- gave back to the community by working with United Sikhs, an international nonprofit humanitarian relief organization affiliated with the United Nations.
Dhaliwal worked with the agency to organize the donation of supplies for first responders after Hurricane Harvey devastated the county in 2017. He also went to Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated the island later that year.
"He was a hero. Deputy Dhaliwal was a trailblazer," said Gonzalez.