On September 27, Harris County Deputy Sheriff Sandeep Dhaliwal made a routine traffic stop of a driver for running a stop sign. After a brief and uneventful conversation with the driver, Dhaliwal started to walk back to his patrol car. Robert Solis, the driver, then exited the car and dashed after the deputy, ambushing him with a shot to the back of the head. Dhaliwal, 42, died in the hospital while Solis was captured at an ice cream parlor within hours of the shooting.
The heroic deputy was described by Sheriff Ed Gonzalez as a “trailblazer” who “represented his community with integrity, respect and pride, and was respected by all.” Dhaliwal was the first observant Sikh to become a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County. The 10-year veteran of the sheriff department is survived by his wife and three children.
Solis, 47, has a long criminal record that dates back 25 years. In 2002, Solis was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. He was paroled in 2014. In 2016, Solis was arrested for drunk driving, but the parole board failed to revoke his parole.
In January 2017, his girlfriend at the time accused Solis of assaulting her with a deadly weapon. She forwarded an affidavit to that effect to his parole officer and a blue warrant was issued for his arrest. However, Solis managed to elude the authorities until he was stopped by Deputy Dhaliwal.
Yes, Robert Solis ambushed and killed Deputy Dhaliwal, but the Texas Parole Division must share responsibility for his death.
Let’s start out with the 2016 drunk driving arrest. I suspect his parole officer recommended he be retained on parole, but whether he did or not, the parole board did not revoke his parole.
Now there is nothing wrong with not revoking the parole of a parolee after he has been arrested for DUI if he has had a good record while on parole and provided that he is a non-violent offender. But Solis was a violent offender on parole for aggravated kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. His parole should have been revoked forthwith. Drinking and violence go hand in hand, and that made Solis a danger to society.
Then again, how would his parole officer know that Solis was a sterling parolee? Probably, his only contact with Solis was during the worthless monthly office visit. And if Solis was wearing an ankle monitor, that would only tell the parole officer of his whereabouts, not what he may have been up too.
The primary responsibility of a parole system is protection of the public. TDC should have a shotgun and AR-15 toting fugitive unit to go after parole violators serving time for a crime of violence that are on the loose, like Solis. TDC has a toothless Warrants Division that does not try to apprehend fugitive parole violators, but only assists the police when they want to arrest a parolee for a new offense.
So, no one, not the police nor the parole division bothered to look for Solis after that blue warrant was issued in January 2017. You can’t blame the police because his girlfriend apparently did not file a criminal complaint which would have led to his arrest.
But you can blame the parole division. Had Solis been revoked after his DUI arrest, Deputy Dhaliwal might still be enjoying time with his wife and three kids. If the parole division had a fugitive unit that would go after parole violators on the loose, Deputy Dhaliwa might still be serving as a law enforcement officer and, as Sheriff Gonzalez said, “representing his community with integrity, respect and pride.”
The blood of Harris County Sheriff Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal is not only on the hands of Robert Solis, but also on the hands of a detrimental Texas parole system.
UPDATE 7:07 PM
Channel 2 interviewed Melissa Purtee, the former common-law wife of Solis, and his son, Robert Purtee.
Melissa said: “I tried to tell everyone he was dangerous. I started calling his parole officer, HPD, Crime Stoppers and the Ft. Bend County Sheriff’s Office. I was trying to hand this guy to them on a silver platter. I said where he was at. He had guns and drugs, and one of my sons. But it was the parole officer’s fault.”
Robert said: “It was the complete incompetence of the parole officer. These people are supposed to be supervising these violent criminals’ reintegration into society. They’re not.”
Both Melissa and Robert claim they called Solis’ parole officer 10 times, asking for a spot check. But the parole officer never showed up.
TDC responded to Channel 2’s inquiry: “TCDJ is not a law enforcement organization. When an arrest warrant is issued, we depend on local law enforcement. Parole officers don’t have arrest powers.” Jeremy Desel, TDCJ director of communications, said Monday that tips to parole officers are, as standard practice, forwarded to law enforcement for follow-up since TDCJ has no police powers.
There are two problems with TDC’s pile of horseshit. To begin with, it is questionable whether or not a parole officer has the power to arrest a parolee. But he certainly has the power, and the duty, to personally investigate any complaints against one of his parolees and to turn a written report of that investigation over to the police if he found any criminal wrongdoing. The cops are too busy to go after a parolee just because his parole officer reported that he has been misbehaving.
The other problem can be solved by changing the law to make parole officers peace officers. Until that happens, the public will not be protected against criminals by the Texas parole system. And in the meantime, there is nothing to prevent the parole division from having an armed fugitive unit to go after parolees on the loose, like Solis.
Besides all that, a parole officer does not need to be a peace officer to take a parole violator into custody because the parolee remains in the custody of TDC until he finishes serving his sentence. The parolee is merely serving the remainder of his sentence outside of a prison. If the parole officer busts one of his parolees, with or without the help of the police, he takes him to the nearest jail facility where he will remain until the parole board decides whether to keep him on parole or to have him returned to prison.
And Robert Purtee made the most noteworthy point when he said the parole officers “are supposed to be supervising these violent criminals’ reintegration into society. They’re not.”