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Off-Duty Texas Deputy Fatally Shot Trying to Break Up Crime

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Darren Almendarez, a 23-year veteran with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, was trying to stop a possible vehicle or catalytic converter theft in a parking lot when he was shot and killed.

By Mike Stunson. Source The Charlotte Observer

An off-duty deputy was shot and killed on Thursday, March 31, as he was trying to break up a crime outside a grocery store, according to a Texas sheriff’s office.

Darren Almendarez was a 23-year veteran with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and was most recently with the auto theft division, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a news briefing streamed by KHOU early Friday.

Almendarez was exiting a grocery store on Thursday night with his wife when he noticed a possible vehicle or catalytic converter theft in the parking lot, Gonzalez said.

He intervened and was confronted by two or three suspects, the sheriff said. Gunfire was exchanged and Almendarez shot two suspects, but he was also struck.

“(He’s) really a hero because as all of this was unfolding, he had the mindset to make sure he was protecting his wife,” Gonzalez said. “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 try and stop a crime.”

Almendarez was transported to a Houston hospital, where he died. He was 51. His wife was uninjured.

Gonzalez said the deputy was at the grocery store to buy ingredients to cook a birthday meal for his sister.

The two suspects who were shot drove themselves to a hospital and were listed in stable condition, according to the sheriff. Charges have not been filed as of early Friday.

A third suspect remained at-large early Friday.

Almendarez was a former fast-food worker who at one point was homeless before he became a deputy, Gonzalez said.

“He had that fire, that grit to do something,” the sheriff said. “He committed his life to public service and to be a law enforcement officer, to be a deputy, to be a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Today we lost a great one.”

Deputy Constable Rex Evans said Almendarez “exuded a special light which illuminated even (in) the darkest and most dangerous of places.”

“Darren was, a good cop. A good friend. He was a family man,” Evans said on Facebook. “I’d simply say, he was, a great guy. The kind of guy every other guy would hope they too, could one day be.”

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©2022 The Charlotte Observer. 

Visit charlotteobserver.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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