Off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Almendarez dies after shooting outside Joe V’s Smart Shop

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — An off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy has died after he was shot in a grocery store parking lot.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he was shot while confronting suspected car burglars outside the Joe V’s Smart Shop in the 2900 block of FM 1960 at Aldine Westfield at 8:40 pm Thursday.

“We got one male shot in the chest,” first responders could be heard reporting on radio traffic.

Video from the scene shows just how much gunfire there was. The windshield of the suspects’ car was covered in bullet holes.

Deputies said the suspects drove themselves to the hospital after the shooting.

Two suspects were shot and are now hospitalized, and a third suspect is believed to be on the run.

Gonzalez said the deputy, identified as 51-year-old Darren Almendarez, protected his wife in his final moments alive.

Almendarez is a 23-year veteran with the sheriff’s office. He was assigned to the auto theft division.

Deputies said Almendarez’s wife spotted what looked like suspects trying to steal the catalytic convert from the couple’s truck as they left the grocery store.

Gonzalez said Almendarez told his wife to stay back as he approached the suspects. That’s when one of the three men started shooting.

Almendarez was shot, and he was fired back, investigators said. Two of the three suspects were also shot.

“At a personal level and as sheriffs, that’s evil. We’ve got evil individuals that are out there,” Gonzalez said of the shooting.

The off-duty deputy was transported to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

“Because I know him personally, professionally, I can say he would have done the same thing,” Chief Deputy Edison Toquica said. “Ironically, it just happened to have been his truck.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement Friday morning about Almendarez’s death.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Deputy Darren Almendarez. We mourn with our brothers and sisters at Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and we extend our support to them as they grieve the loss of the 23-year veteran. Law enforcement is an inherently dangerous job, but what happened is unacceptable. It is a terrible day when a family trip to a grocery store ends in violence and loss of life. Deputy Almendarez will be remembered as a loyal public servant who died while protecting his wife. I ask everyone to join me in praying for the deputy’s family, his coworkers, and for the senseless violence to end.”

Gov. Greg Abbott also released a statement, saying that the state would be ready to provide all the resources necessary to bring justice to the family and loved ones of Deputy Almendarez.

“Deputy Darren Almendarez lost his life while answering the call to serve and protect his fellow Texans, and this tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make both on and off duty. The State of Texas is ready to provide all resources necessary to bring justice to the family and loved ones of Deputy Almendarez. I ask that Texans join Cecilia and me in prayer for Deputy Almendarez’s family and for the continued safety of all of our law enforcement officers across the Lone Star State.”

Deputies were investigating a second crime scene less than a mile down the road at a Circle K, where investigators taped off the parking lot and towed away an SUV.

At that scene, authorities collected a gun they thought was related. However, ABC13 has learned that based on surveillance video, the weapon is not connected to this shooting.

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