Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Almendarez, was shot and killed in front of his wife, whom he saved, after stopping a theft in progress
Almendarez, 51, and his wife walked out of a Houston grocery store on Thursday and saw three men trying to steal catalytic converter from their truck
One of the perpetrators pulled out a gun and shot deputy, who returned fire
The 23-year veteran assigned to auto theft division saved his wife by telling her to run, as he returned fire and injured suspects despite being gravely wounded
Two injured suspects, one listed in critical condition drove themselves to hospital where they were arrested
The third suspect fled and remains at large
An off-duty Harris County sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed after exiting a Houston grocery store with his wife on Thursday night and discovering armed men trying to steal the catalytic converter from his truck, then engaging the robbers in a firefight.
The deadly shootout, which also left two of the three suspects wounded, took place outside Joe V’s Smart Shop in the 2900 block of FM 1960, at 8.40pm.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez stated that 51-year-old Deputy Darren Almendarez and his wife were out shopping for groceries in preparation for a cookout to celebrate his sister’s birthday on Friday when the tragic encounter happened.
Almendarez and his wife walked out of a grocery store on FM 1960 and spotted three men allegedly trying to steal the catalytic converter from their truck
Almendarez’s wife noticed a trio of suspects trying to pry the catalytic converter – an exhaust emission control device made of precious metals – off their parked vehicle.
Gonzalez told his wife to run as he confronted the thieves, one of whom pulled out a gun and opened fire, fatally shooting the deputy.
Almendarez told his wife to run while he confronted the suspects, one of whom allegedly, pulled out a gun and opened fire, striking the deputy.
Despite being mortally wounded, Almendarez returned fire and struck two of the three suspects.
‘He told his wife to run, to get away from danger as he put himself in harm’s way to protect the rest of the community and to try and stop a crime,’ the sheriff said during a press conference on Friday.
The mortally wounded 23-year police veteran returning fire, hit two of the robbers while the third suspect fled the scene and remained at large as of Friday, reported ABC13.
The injured suspects drove themselves to a hospital, where one was listed in a critical condition and the other in a stable condition.
Almendarez was rushed to HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
‘At a personal level and as sheriff, that’s evil. We’ve got evil individuals that are out there,’ Gonzalez said of the shooting.
He added: ‘we lost another hero in our community. We’re tired of crime in this community,’ reported Fox26.
Gonzalez said that Almendarez was a ‘warrior’ and a ‘survivor’ who worked low-paying jobs in the fast-food industry and experienced homelessness as a young man, before embarking on a successful career in law enforcement, reported Click2Houston.
Almendarez was assigned to the auto theft division of the sheriff’s office. He is survived by his wife and children.
Almendarez spent the final hours leading up to his brutal death cleaning the house in preparation for his sister’s birthday party that was planned for Friday, according to KHOU11.
‘He was very happy,’ the sheriff added.
Family and friends have been expressing their condolences and sharing their memories of the fallen deputy on Facebook.
‘Whenever and wherever he was, he just exuded a special light which illuminated even the darkest and most dangerous of places,’ Rex Evans wrote.