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

Deputy Darren Almendarez died protecting his wife, telling her to run and get away from danger, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- "If it wasn't his truck, if it was somebody else's truck, he would have done the same thing," said Harris County Chief Deputy Edison Toquica of his fallen deputy, Darren Almanderez, who was killed Thursday night trying to stop a suspected catalytic converter theft on his own vehicle.

The deadly shooting happened in the parking lot of a grocery store in the 2900 block of FM 1960 at Aldine Westfield, where authorities said Almendarez was off-duty, shopping as anyone would do.

Almendarez was with his wife when he saw the alleged theft occurring on his own truck.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that the three suspects, one of who is on the run, opened fire first and Almendarez shot back.

Gonzalez said the 51-year-old deputy protected his wife in his final moments alive. Before he was killed, Almendarez told his wife to run and get away from danger.

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

As the sheriff's office told reporters how the scene unfolded that led to their comrad's death, they also shared more of who Almendarez was as a person.

"Very outspoken, very great individual, both personally and professionally," said Toquica. "He's had a stellar career with us for the past 23 years.

According to the chief deputy, Almanderez started as a detention officer, then went to patrol and investigations.

Under his latest assignment in the auto theft division, he tracked down stolen vehicles and located auto body shops conducting illegal activity.

But outside of law enforcement, Almanderez had life experiences that many may be able to relate to.

Gonzalez said Almendarez was homeless when he was younger and worked a fast food job.

The deputy was a Milby High School graduate, going on to serve the community in that area.

"We lost a great one," the sheriff said.

The sheriff told reporters that Almendarez and his wife were at the grocery store shopping for a meal to fix for his sister's birthday celebration.

ORIGINAL STORY: Off-duty deputy dies after being shot while trying to stop theft in north Harris County
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The sheriff said the deputy protected his wife in his final moments. Two of the suspects were also shot, and a third suspect is believed to be on the run.

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