‘He was a warrior’: What we know about Deputy Darren Almendarez, veteran fatally shot by catalytic converter thieves: HCSO

HOUSTON – KPRC 2 is learning more about a Harris County sheriff’s deputy who 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.

The deputy, who has been identified as Deputy Darren Almendarez, 51, was with his wife at a grocery store located on 2929 FM 1960 at Aldine Westfield when authorities said two or three suspects were outside attempting to steal the deputy’s catalytic converter when the incident began. According to deputies, he was buying supplies for his sister’s birthday celebration.

Deputies said Almendarez attempted to stop the suspects before they exchanged gunfire. The deputy returned fire but was ultimately struck by a bullet, HCSO said. The incident took place in front of his wife.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said this is a tragic loss for the deputy’s family and law enforcement. He described the 23-year HCSO veteran as an outstanding deputy and person.

READ MORE: Off-duty HCSO deputy killed in shootout with suspects attempting to steal catalytic converter from grocery store parking lot identified: Sheriff

An Austin High School graduate, Gonzalez said the deputy started as a detention officer, went to work for patrol, and has been in investigations. His latest and current assignment this past year was on the Auto Theft Task Force.

While the victim had what Gonzalez described as a “stellar career,” he also faced some hardships throughout his life.

“Deputy Almendarez was a fighter. I mean, he was a warrior in every sense of the word,” Gonzalez said. “I’m told that early in life, in his young adulthood, he was working at a fast-food restaurant for a bit moment. I’m told he was even homeless. He was trying to make ends meet as a young man.”

Gonzalez said the deputy had the “fire and grit” to become a successful and accomplished deputy.

In addition to being a deputy and husband, Almendarez was also a father.

“He was a family man [who] loved being in [the] pool with them,” Steve Almendarez, the Deputy’s brother said.

Almendarez was one of 12 children, and his family said that he learned the value of hard work at a young age. They pushed back, Friday, on the notion that Darren was ever “homeless.”

“He left home because it was tough, but he always had a place to stay,” his brother said.

Almendarez passed the exam to work for the United States Postal Service around the same time he set on the path to become a member of law enforcement, he chose his dream, his family said.

“He always wanted to be a cop since he was a kid,” Steve Almendarez said.

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