‘Where are their parents?’: Brothers in blue support death penalty sought for suspects charged in murder of Deputy Almendarez

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – Prosecutors are asking for the death penalty in the fatal shooting of a veteran Harris County deputy who was gunned down after interrupting three suspects who were allegedly trying to steal his catalytic converter.

Joshua Stewart, 23; Fredarius Clark, 19; and Fredrick James Tardy, 17, were each charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Deputy Darren Almendarez.

On Monday, a procession was held transporting Almendarez’s body from the Medical Examiner’s Office to the Brookside Funeral Home in northeast Houston.

On the same day, Stewart appeared before a judge in probable cause court. Clark was also due in court, but waived his right to appear before a judge. No bond was given for either suspect.

Outside the Harris County courtroom, David Cuevas, president of the Harris County Deputy’s Organization, was asked about the alarming number of young adults and teens having access to firearms used to commit crimes.

“Here’s the bigger question, where are their parents? Where is the responsibility?” Cuevas fired back. “People that follow the law know the proper way to obtain guns. It’s these criminals that have no home training. Do their parents even care about them? Because they are out of control themselves.”

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What happened

Authorities say, on March 31 around 8:30 p.m., Almendarez, who was off duty, was out grocery shopping with his wife at the Joe V’s grocery store located at 2929 FM 1960 in north Harris County when he came upon the attempted theft in progress.

As Almendarez approached the suspects, they began firing, striking the deputy. Despite being struck multiple times, Almendarez managed to fire back, shooting Stewart and Clark.

Almendarez was rushed to Houston Northwest Hospital, but could not be saved. He was 51 years old.

The injured suspects drove themselves to the same hospital, where they were taken into custody. Tardy was arrested on Saturday afternoon.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Almendarez’s death 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.

Almendarez was one of 12 children, and his family said that he learned the value of hard work at a young age.

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.

According to records, in 2019, Stewart was charged with unlawful carry of a weapon but the case was dismissed. He was also charged with criminal trespassing.

Law enforcement officers stand in solidarity outside a Harris County courtroom Monday in support of fallen brother, Deputy Darren Almendarez. (KPRC)

Holding people accountable

Seeking justice, Cuevas said they were hoping for no bond for his accused killers, and feels the system is failing those committed to protecting and serving.

“We’ve seen it throughout the year, the tragic loss of law enforcement. Nationally, there have been 100 people shot, our brothers and sisters in blue. Harris County is the murder capitol of Texas and I think once the citizens realize that, they will start to understand that we need to start holding these public officials accountable because they’ve been pretty worthless for public safety.”

“We have seen the out of control with these criminals, they have been empowered, they’ve been emboldened because we have a weak criminal justice system and we need our public officials to step up because they have been utterly a failure,” he added.

Cuevas says the heavy presence of officers Monday shows their solidarity as they stand strong, making sure the thin blue line is being supported.

“Personally, it’s hurtful anytime you lose a brother. I’ve known Darren for over 20 years, we went to the academy together, and to see him lay down his life because of these three criminals who didn’t give a damn about anybody but themselves,” Cuevas said. “They didn’t want to get a job. They just thought they could go and start stealing and get into a confrontation with our brother. I believe all three of them deserve the death penalty.”


About the Author:

Mother of two. Award-winning lover of digital storytelling, sparked by my fascination of being a fashionable gossip like my favorite "Willona Woods" character from "Good Times." On the serious side, president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists and dedicated community servant. Happy to share the news with you each and every day!