HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – An off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy has died after he was shot while trying to stop suspects from stealing his catalytic converter during a trip to the grocery store Thursday night, according to officials.
Authorities say the shooting happened in north Harris County in a grocery store parking lot on 2929 FM 1960 at Aldine Westfield.
According to officials, three suspects were outside attempting to steal the deputy’s catalytic converter when the incident began.
The deputy, who has been identified as Deputy Darren Almendarez, tried to stop them before they exchanged gunfire. Officials said Almendarez returned fire but was ultimately struck by a bullet. He was later pronounced dead at Houston Northwest Hospital.
Two of the suspects, identified as Joshua Stewart, 23, and Fredarius Clark, 19, reportedly drove themselves to the hospital Almendarez was in and they were being treated for gunshot wounds. They are currently under HCSO custody. Deputies said one of them is in serious condition and the other is in critical condition.
The third suspect, 17-year-old Fredrick Tardy was arrested Friday night, according to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. He is charged with Capital Murder.
The entire incident happened in front of Almendarez’s wife, who remained unharmed during the incident. According to Gonzalez, Almendarez told his wife to run when the incident began. Gonzalez is asking for prayers for the deputy’s family at this time.
“This is tragic. You know, we’re tired of this crime in our community,” Gonzalez said in a press conference. “We’re tired that people aren’t even safe to go out to the grocery store. This is a cop. This is a cop that’s just out with his family. It could be any one of us-- And it happened to be him. That’s unacceptable and we’ve said it time and time again, and I just don’t know what else to say.”
“If a hero is not safe in his own community, then the general public is not, and we’re not gonna tolerate that,” Gonzalez continued.
The deputy was a 23-year veteran of HCSO currently assigned to the Auto Theft Task Force.
Update 2 to shooting on 1960: It devastates us to announce our deputy has been pronounced deceased. Please keep his family and our members in your prayers. I will provide an update to media shortly outside HCA Houston NW, corner of Judiiwood & Cali. #HouNews https://t.co/yvSFViGAd1— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) April 1, 2022