The tragic yet utterly preventable death of Sandeep Dhaliwal-Texas first Sikh sheriff’s deputy

By Andy Kahan

Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was the first Sikh Deputy in Texas and a trendsetter nationally. He was one of the first law enforcement officers in the country by way of a policy change to wear a beard and a turban on duty.  He was tragically the first Sikh Deputy to be killed in the line of duty. He was 42 years old, married with three children

What began as a routine traffic stop, (in this day and age nothing is routine) ended up with parolee Robert Solis being charged with Capital Murder of Deputy Dhaliwal. 

On September 27th, 2019 Deputy Dhaliwal pulled over Solis for running a stop sign. Minutes later while running a records check, Solis exited the vehicle and fired several shots killing the officer. Solis was apprehended later that day and charged with Capital Murder.

Robert Solis was no stranger to the criminal justice system. He served 12 years out of a 20-year sentence for Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon before he was approved for parole. He shot a relative’s boyfriend and then held his four-year-old son hostage inside a garage with a firearm while trying to hide from law enforcement.

While on parole he was convicted of Driving while intoxicated an obvious violation of his parole. The parole board elected not to return him to prison. A few months later his ex-girlfriend submitted a notarized affidavit to his parole officer stating Solis was in possession of a firearm, fired a shot at her and assaulted her. A parole warrant was issued for violating his parole. Solis flew the coop and was never arrested on the warrant.  That was January 2017. Solis remained a Fugitive from Justice for close to three years. No one was looking for him and the public was never advised he was a fugitive. Perhaps, if the public was made aware a tip could have been called in leading to his arrest. It appeared like he wasn’t trying to hide and was living freely in a neighborhood before that fatal day. 

Deputy Dhaliwal’s murder was the fourth citizen I uncovered in the past few years murdered by a parolee despite being convicted of a new offense while on parole. Michael Susberry is pending trial for the Capital Murder of 79-year-old Janeil Bernard. He was on parole for Armed Robbery and while on parole was convicted of Assault. Once again, his parole was not revoked and he was allowed to remain in the community. Kiara Taylor was convicted of Capital Murder of 19-year-old Peter Mielke who was working at a pizza parlor to earn money for college. Taylor was convicted of three offenses while on parole in less than two years and once again the Parole Board elected not to return him to prison. He is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

Leroy Smoots served 21 years of a 45-year sentence for murder before being paroled. While on parole, he too was convicted of a criminal offense (starting to notice a trend) and not returned to prison by the parole board. He was convicted of first-degree murder of 31-year-old radio personality Kumba Sesay and sentenced to life in prison.

In Texas roughly 6,000 offenders on parole were convicted of new offenses annually but not returned to prison. When I asked for a breakdown of the crimes offenders were convicted of like misdemeanors, felony’s et al; officials from the Texas Parole Board could not supply data. Legislation was filed to basically force the Parole Board to issue a report on a breakdown of the offenses committed by offenders on parole but not returned to prison. For reasons beyond my comprehension the Bill failed to pass in 2017 and in 2019.  It defies logic why a simple piece of legislation to identify the types of offenses committed by parolees but not sent back to prison would not pass. I am sure at least four Houstonians in the past few years murdered by parolees despite new convictions would like an answer. What scares me the most is the examples I cited in this blog are just what I have discovered. It’s what I don’t know that is even more frightening. 

It would be fascinating to see if this is a nation-wide (I suspect it is) trend or simply a Texas anomaly. 

Bottom Line: Four people including the first Sikh Deputy in the state of Texas are dead as a result of a parolee who had been convicted of a new crime on parole but not returned to prison. We as a society owe it to not just Deputy Dhaliwal but to all those who lost their lives in what I call a tragic yet utterly preventable offense. The sad reality is we all know it will happen again and again unless something dramatically changes. We can’t let Deputy Dhaliwal, Peter Mielke, Kumba Sesay and Janeil Bernard’s death be in vain or else shame on us. 

Copyright 2019 by Andy Kahan. All Rights Reserved

Andy Kahan is the Director of Victim Services & Advocacy at Crime Stoppers of Houston

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