HOUSTON, Texas — An off-duty Harris County sheriff's deputy was killed late Thursday after a gunfight occurred in a parking lot of a grocery store.
Darren Almendarez was shopping with his wife for his sister's upcoming birthday at about 8:40 p.m. when he was shot shielding his wife from gunfire.
Almendarez approached three men whom he suspected of trying to either steal his truck or its catalytic converter. Shortly afterwards, gunfire was exchanged with two of the three suspects being struck.
“Absolutely heartbroken,” Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo said in a Tweet about Almendarez's death. “My heart goes out to all our law enforcement family and to his loved ones.”
The shooting occurred in the parking lot at 2929 FM 1960 in North Harris County.
Two of the three suspects drove themselves to a hospital where they were detained. One is in critical condition while the second remains stable. The third suspect is still at large.
Almendarez served for the Harris County Sheriff's Office for 23 years and was assigned to the auto theft division. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Almendarez is the fourth death of a law enforcement officer in Harris County this year.