HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - A deputy with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has died following a shooting in a grocery store parking lot on Thursday night.
The sheriff’s office identified him as 51-year-old Deputy Darren Almendarez, a 23-year veteran of the department assigned to the auto theft division. He was off-duty at the time of the shooting.
The shooting occurred around 8:40 p.m. in the parking lot at 2929 FM 1960.
Authorities said Deputy Almendarez was leaving the grocery store with his wife when he apparently spotted some suspects attempting to steal his truck’s catalytic converter.
According to the sheriff's office, Almendarez saw a black Nissan Altima backed up to his truck and two males under his vehicle. He told his wife to walk to safety and then approached, authorities say.
As Almedarez approached the vehicles, the suspects began shooting at him, the sheriff's office says. Almendarez was struck multiple times.
According to HCSO, the deputy was able to return fire and shot at least two of the suspects. The suspects fled in the vehicle.
Almendarez was taken to HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest, where he later died.
Authorities say the two wounded suspects arrived at the same hospital in their vehicle a short time later. The sheriff's office identified them as Joshua Stewart, 23, and Fredarius Clark, 19. They have both been charged with capital murder.
The sheriff's office says three males were in the suspects' vehicle right before the shooting. A third male, a 17-year-old was arrested on the North Freeway on Friday.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Harris County Sheriff's Office Homicide Unit at (713)274-9100 or Crime Stoppers at (713)222-TIPS.
During a news conference late Thursday night, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke about Almendarez getting ready to host a birthday party for his sister. Gonzalez said he was going to prepare a meal on Friday for her and was cleaning up the house for the celebration.
"We lost another hero in our community," Gonzalez said after making the announcement. "We're tired of crime in this community."
A procession was held as his body was transported from the hospital to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
"Today we've lost a great one, once again, and so our hearts are devastated," Gonzalez said.