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Mantecans honor fallen trailblazing Sikh police officer
Modesto attorney Harpreet Singh stands in front of the portrait of the late Sandeep Dhaliwal.

Gary Singh remembered Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal as his “contact person” during local relief efforts back when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in 2017.

The Manteca City councilmember paid tribute to Dhaliwal, who was a prominent member in both law enforcement and his Sikh faith – he was the first Texas officer to wear a turban on duty, capturing national attention.

“He wore his turban proudly – he was a hero and trailblazer,” said Gary Singh of the Harris County sheriff deputy who was slain in the line of duty last Friday during a traffic stop.

“It was a routine stop and he was doing a background check,” said Modesto attorney Harpreet Singh, who was one of many from throughout the Central Valley to speak at the candlelight vigil held for Dhaliwal Monday at Woodward Park.

He added: “It was brutal – (Dhaliwal) was shot in cold blood.”

Robert Solis, 47, was arrested and charged with capital murder.

“I’m from Texas and you don’t steal a man’s horse; you don’t shoot a man in the back,” said Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu who moved to California as a youngster with his family. “I hope the guy fries.”

Elected leaders from Modesto, Tracy and Manteca along with San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors’ Tom Patti and Miguel Villapudua, various service organizations, and Sikhs representatives from the various groups – both religious and social – were on hand to pay their respects for the late Deputy Dhaliwal, who was 42.

“It’s great seeing members of the community come out (in support of the Sikhs),” said former Manteca councilmember Richard Silverman.

Mohammed El Farah of the Islamic Center of Manteca believes that Dhaliwal’s murder was a hate crime.

“We lost someone who was protecting and serving,” he said. “He may have looked different (from other the officers) but he was still a prominent member of his community.”

Dhaliwal was no stranger to the area. Harpreet Singh, who also a member of the non-profit Western Singh Foundation in Modesto, remembers his recent visit to Stockton.

“All we can do is try to remember him and carry on with his legacy,” he said.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow is well aware of the hazards of the job.

“It may be the most dangerous profession in the world,” he said.

Withrow, who was wowed by the strong numbers of those attending the vigil, acknowledged Dhaliwal as a hero on “how he lived his life and served others.”

Mani Grewal, who serves on the Modesto City Council, was also overwhelmed by those paying their respects for Dhaliwal.

“He brought us together – we stand by in solidarity,” he said.

Another candlelight vigil is planned at 6:30 p.m. today in front of Stockton City Hall, 425 N. El Dorado St., and one later this week in front the State Capitol building in Sacramento.