(HOUSTON) — Three people have been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of an off-duty Texas deputy, authorities said.
The incident occurred Thursday night around 8:30 p.m. outside a grocery store in North Harris County.
Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez, 51, and his wife were walking to their car from the store when he saw two men under his truck allegedly attempting to steal the vehicle’s catalytic converter, authorities said.
Almendarez told his wife to run. As he approached his truck the suspects began firing at him, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Almendarez returned gunfire, striking two of the suspects, before they fled the parking lot in a car, the sheriff said.
The deputy was transported to a local hospital in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead from his gunshot wounds, authorities said. Almendarez’s wife was not injured.
The two suspects wounded in the exchange showed up at the same hospital in the suspect’s vehicle later that night in stable condition, authorities said.
The suspects — Joshua Stewart, 23, and Fredarius Clark, 19 — have been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Almendarez, authorities said Friday.
A third suspect sought in the incident, 17-year-old Fredrick Tardy, was arrested and charged with capital murder, authorities said Friday night.
Stewart was denied bail on Saturday, court records show. During a hearing on Saturday, probable cause was found in Clark’s case, court records show.
Stewart and Clark are scheduled to appear in court on Monday. Attorney information was not immediately available for the three suspects.
Almendarez was a 23-year veteran of the agency and had served in the automobile theft unit for the past year, Gonzalez said.
“Heartbreaking,” the sheriff said after the deputy was identified.
Almendarez “loved being a deputy” and was an “outstanding member” of the agency, Gonzalez said.
“A remarkable man and public servant. Humble beginnings, grew up in Second Ward and played sports at Settegast Park,” Gonzalez said on social media. “From his first job as a teen at Whataburger on Harrisburg to fulfilling his goal of being a cop.”
The sheriff’s office shared a video spotlighting Almendarez released earlier this year.
“I work a lot on my days off and my time off, but I don’t mind,” Almendarez said in the video. “I’m going to help out as much as I can because it just, it feels right to do something like that.”
“You go home with a sense of not only relief but also a feeling of satisfaction, like, I did my job, I did what I could and I helped somebody out.”
Cop killers deserve the death penalty.https://t.co/zCnVDy2BBC via @houstonchron
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 2, 2022
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for the death penalty in the killing of the deputy.
“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,” Abbott said in a statement.
-ABC News’ Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.
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