Widow of Harris Co. deputy killed by alleged catalytic converter thieves testifies before senators

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Catalytic converter bill named after fallen deputy heads to TX senate
During Tuesday's hearing, the deputy's wife recalled his final moments. The bill named after him, which stiffens penalties for catalytic converter thieves, now heads to the Texas senate floor.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The widow of a Harris County sheriff's deputy who was murdered while confronting suspected catalytic converter thieves last year gave a powerful testimony to state senators pushing Senate Bill 224, otherwise known as the Deputy Daren Almendarez Act.

"But I shouldn't be living in fear, because I am not going to give up. I'm not," Flor Zarzoza-Almendarez said. "My husband gave up his life for me, and not just me, for the community."

The bill, which is named for her late husband, adds a specific theft offense in the penal code for catalytic converter theft. It also creates a penalty enhancement for those who possess a firearm during the crime.

Nearly one year ago, Almendarez was killed while confronting suspected thieves who were reportedly in the process of stealing a catalytic converter from his personal truck outside a grocery store.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Off-duty deputy dies after being shot while trying to stop theft in north Harris County

The sheriff said Deputy Darren Almendarez protected his wife in his final moments.

During her testimony, Zarzoza-Almendarez described the moment she and her husband left the store, and her life changed forever.

"All I remember him saying was, 'Wait baby. Just wait right here.' Just a few feet from me. The next thing I hear? Run," Zarzoza-Almendarez recalled. "This whole time, we're just looking at each other. I was looking at him. And just that image of me turning around, hearing the gunshot... but I didn't think he got shot because he was such a brave man."

SEE ALSO: What we know about HCSO deputy Darren Almendarez killed in N. Harris County

The fallen deputy is being remembered as a man who loved serving his community. Here, ABC13's Charly Edsitty explores who he was and his career.

"[I] turn around all I hear is 'Call 911.' [He's] walking around, he's just walking around," she continued.

"I see my husband, he approaches me, we hug," the widow recalled. "But I know, when we held onto each other, he just told me he couldn't breathe and that he loved me. We kissed, and that was his last breath."

Three people were arrested and charged with Almendarez's murder. Their cases are currently working through the legal system.

READ MORE: 6 people arrested for role in large catalytic converter theft ring linked to death of HCSO deputy

Investigators said they were part of a bigger catalytic converter theft ring.

Zarzoza-Almendarez told the senate committee she goes to every single hearing because she's not giving up on getting justice for her husband.

The bill advanced out of committee on Tuesday and now heads to the senate floor for a full vote.