State to seek death penalty in murder of HCSO Deputy Darren Almendarez

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A procession was held on Monday morning for Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Darren Almendarez, who was shot and killed last week in a grocery store parking lot.

The procession started at 8 a.m. from the medical examiner's office on Old Spanish Trail and ended at Brookside Funeral Home at 13747 Eastex Freeway.



Shortly after the procession, the hallway on the 19th floor of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse was crowded with deputies.

Deputy Darren Almendarez's colleagues wanted to be in court when the first of three defendants, 23-year-old Joshua Stewart, made a court appearance. The judge denied bond during the hearing.

"At this time, we're planning to pursue the death penalty," said prosecutor Keith Houston from the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "It's a new case. We have to look at the evidence. At this time, were planning to pursue the death penalty."

Frederick Tardy, 17, and Federias Clark, 19, are also charged with murder. Both are scheduled to appear on Tuesday.

Tardy appeared for Monday's hearing, but a defense attorney could not be located in time, so the hearing was pushed back a day.

HCDO President David Cuevas said he'll be there every step of the way because this case is personal.


"I've known Darren 20 years. We went to the academy together," said Cuevas. "To see him lay down his life, for these three criminals who didn't give a damn about anybody but themselves, and they could just steal and get in a confrontation with our brother."

All three suspects are accused of attempting to steal the Almendarez's catalytic converter in the parking lot of Joe V's Smart Shop on Thursday evening.

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

Investigators said as Almendarez and his wife walked back to their truck, they caught the men in the act when one of the three men started shooting.

On Monday's court hearing, we learned that Clark was the driver of the getaway car and he allegedly was the first to open fire at Almendarez.

Clark allegedly warned Tardy and Stewart to get back in the car as Almendarez approached his truck. The men had cordless cutting tools.

The suspects claim Almendarez shot at them first. Although, security camera footage shows Clark fired shots before Almendarez.

"The driver, later identified as this defendant, opened the front driver door, displayed a handgun outside the vehicle over the door frame, shooting towards the complainant. The complainant then pointed his handgun toward the vehicle while approaching. When he reached the driver's side door, he grabbed this defendant's handgun as he discharged it in the direction of the complainant," the court clerk read.

As the suspects drove away, Almendarez continued shooting at them as more shots may have been fired from the suspects' car, ABC13 learned in court.

The three men are believed to be involved in a bigger crew that steals catalytic converters.

In 2019, Stewart had a charge in Harris County for unlawful carrying of a weapon that was later dismissed, records show.
In November 2020, Clark was convicted of criminal trespassing and later unlawful carrying of a weapon that was later dismissed.

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Authorities say Deputy Almendarez protected his wife in his final moments.

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