An estimated 250 people of diverse faiths, ethnicities, and generations gathered outside Elk Grove City Hall on Oct. 7 where they honored the legacy of fallen Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal. The Harris County sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot during a traffic stop in the Houston, Texas area on Sept. 27.
News of his death made international news since he was the first deputy allowed to wear a traditional Sikh turban while on duty in his sheriff’s department.
Amrit Atwal, a Cosumnes Oaks High School student, considers Dhaliwal to be a role model. During the Elk Grove vigil, she spoke of his work in educating people about Sikh culture.
“Our Sikh community is sincere, helpful, and strong,” Atwal said. “That is what Sandeep represented.”
Elk Grove Police Chief Tim Albright said that Dhaliwal was an “ambassador” for his Sikh religion and his local community.
“He represented the bridge between community and law enforcement,” he said.
Sikh and non-Sikh elected officials as well as community members spoke to the crowd in the city hall’s parking lot at dusk. Some addressed the Sikh audience members in their native Punjabi.
A trio of musicians performed a traditional Sikh song and several Sikhs in the audience sang along.
“Obviously in the Sikh community there is a personal affiliation with this (death), but at the greater scheme or a greater stage, it was a life lost for law enforcement protecting our families,”
Modesto Vice Mayor Mani Grewal said. “It affected all of us regardless of our backgrounds.”
Elk Grove City Council Member Stephanie Nguyen, a wife of a police officer, told the audience to pray for law enforcement officers and their families.
“I cannot imagine what the (Dhaliwal) family is going through at this time,” she emotionally said.
Bobbie Singh-Allen, an Elk Grove school district trustee and a Sikh community member, spoke about how Dhaliwal practiced Sikh virtues of “selfless service” and “eternal optimism.” She mentioned his volunteer work for hurricane victims in Texas and flood victims in Punjab, India.
“He served all with honor and integrity, it didn’t matter where they came from, he loved everyone,” Singh-Allen said.
Elk Grove Police Officer Pavindeep Hayer wore a Sikh turban at the vigil and stood with Albright during the police chief’s speech.
“It’s just eye-opening to see all of the support,” he told the Citizen. “It reminds me there is still good out there.”
After the vigil ended, dozens of people placed electric candles on a table before two large banners that displayed Dhaliwal’s photographs.
“Love one another,” a banner read.