Thousands of Sikh community members are gearing up for a fitting funeral to trailblazing Indian-American Sikh police officer Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was murdered while on duty in Texas in a gruesome killing that has triggered an outpouring of public grief.
Dhaliwal, 42, the first Indian-American police officer in Texas, made national headlines when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job. He was gunned down while conducting a mid-day traffic stop in northwest of Houston on Friday.
The Sikh National Center started an Akhand Path, a non-stop front-to-back reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, on Monday and it will conclude on Wednesday.
Thousands of people are expected to gather at the Berry Center in Houston on Wednesday to honour the fallen deputy’s life and legacy in a ceremony open to the public. The event will start with an hour of Sikh prayer, followed by a ceremony led by the Harris County Sheriff”s Office.
Sikh funeral traditions will soon take place at the local gurdwara. Dhaliwal will be cremated at a local funeral home later Wednesday afternoon, according to Sikh tradition.
The cremation service will be for family and members of the sheriff”s office, and final prayers will be said afterwards at the Sikh National Center.
Over USD 600,000 have been raised and donated to the deceased officer’s family for unforeseen expenses and to help pay for his three children’s education.
Dhaliwal is survived by his wife, Harwinder Kaur Dhaliwal, two daughters and one son.
United Sikhs, a global humanitarian relief and advocacy nonprofit, has also set up its own GoFundMe campaign, as well as a Facebook fundraiser for the family.
Baseball professional Carlos Correa met Dhaliwal”s family members on Monday and donated USD 10,000 to them.
“Thank you, Sandeep for everything you did to help others here in Houston and Puerto Rico! Rest In Peace ???? you’ll always be remembered,” he said in a tweet.
Dhaliwal worked with United Sikhs to help organise the donation of truckloads of supplies for first responders after Hurricane Harvey. He worked in Puerto Rico, Correa”s home country, helping them recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
On Sunday, the Houston Texans held a moment of silence for Dhaliwal before their game against the Panthers.
Papa John”s Houston plans to donate all of its profits generated on October 1 to the Dhaliwal family.
“To show our support for his family and our appreciation for his 10 years protecting the community we hope everyone will join us on Tuesday in giving back,” said Keith Sullins, President of Papa John”s Houston.
A local Chick-fil-A restaurant honoured Dhaliwal with a missing man table, a memorial typically found in military dining facilities in memory of fallen service members.
Dhaliwal served as the director of homeland security for the organisation, helping advise Sikh communities on dealing with potential hate crime threats and advocating for their religious rights.
He helped lead a team of volunteers that delivered water and other necessities to farmers surviving a drought in his ancestral village in Punjab, India.
He also assisted at-risk youth in Houston, said Gurvinder Singh international director of Sikh Aid programs for United Sikhs.
Anytime Dhaliwal was on vacation, he would reach out to United Sikhs and ask about what programmes they were working on in the area so he could help, Singh recalled.
Earlier, a vigil was held in Houston on Saturday at the scene where Dhaliwal was shot.
Dhaliwal”s loss is being felt both at home in Houston and in communities around the world.
Communities in New York, New Jersey and even in Punjab held vigils in his memory, according to United Sikhs.
Congregations in gurdwaras as far away as Melbourne, Australia, honoured Dhaliwal in their Ardas, a formal Sikh prayer that asks God for strength.
Meanwhile, the suspect Robert Solis, 47, is accused of killing Dhaliwal in cold blood won”t be released on bond.
He is charged with capital murder in the death of Dhaliwal.
At a court hearing Monday, the judge denied bond for Solis, predicting a possible death penalty outcome.
“It is a likely outcome that death will be the sentence here. No bond is appropriate,” said Judge Chris Morton.