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Off-duty HCSO deputy shot, killed while trying to stop suspects from stealing catalytic converter, sheriff says

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said an off-duty deputy was shot Thursday night at a grocery store parking lot off 1960 at Aldine Westfield.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy died after being shot at a grocery store parking lot on Thursday night, according to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

The deputy has been identified as 51-year-old Darren Almendarez.

Investigators said he was shot and killed after confronting three suspects who were allegedly caught trying to steal his catalytic converter.

What we know

  • This happened at about 8:40 p.m. near the intersection of FM 1960 and Aldine Westfield Road.
  • Deputy Almendarez was grocery shopping with his wife for his sister's birthday celebration. 
  • While leaving the grocery store, he saw three suspects attempting to steal his catalytic converter from his vehicle, according to deputies.
  • At least one of the suspects pulled out a gun and that's when Deputy Almendarez pulled out his and a shootout happened, deputies said. 
  • Deputy Almendarez was shot.
  • Two of the three suspects were shot.
  • One suspect remains on the run.

Deputy Almendarez, described by Sheriff Gonzalez as a fighter and warrior, was shopping in the grocery store with his wife to prepare for his sister's birthday celebration which was planned for Friday, according to the sheriff.  

Her actual birthday was the day he was shot and killed.

RELATED: HCSO Deputy Darren Almendarez remembered as fighter and warrior with a 'stellar' 23-year career

"He was cleaning up the house. He was very happy. He was working tirelessly today to get preparation for that," said Sheriff Gonzalez.

As he was walking back to his vehicle with his grocery items, that's when he saw three suspects trying to steal a catalytic converter. He confronted the suspects and the sheriff said one of them pulled out a gun.

Deputy Almendarez and the suspect struggled over the gun and that's when Almendarez reportedly pulled out his gun and a shootout happened.

Deputy Almendarez and two of the three suspects were shot in the gunfire exchange. 

Deputy Almendarez was taken to a hospital where he later died. 

The suspects who were shot drove themselves to the hospital where both are currently listed as stable. They are in custody, investigators said.  

The third suspect has not been found, according to authorities.

A car was parked at the hospital where both the deputy and suspects were being treated. The car appeared to have bullet holes in the front windshield. The area around the entrance to the hospital was blocked off with crime scene tape.

It's unclear if the vehicle or scene is connected to the shooting

During a press conference Thursday night, Gonzalez said Deputy Almendarez was doing what he did best -- protecting the community.

"He told his wife to run, to get away from danger as he put himself in harm's way to protect the rest of the community and to try and stop a crime," the sheriff said.

Deputy Almendarez was a 23-year veteran with HCSO and most recently served in the auto theft division.

According to Sheriff Gonzalez, Deputy Almendarez was homeless early in his life and worked in fast food. He was trying to make ends meet at a young age before he committed his life to public service. 

Here's the update HCSO investigators provided at the scene of the shooting:

This is a developing story and updates will be added to this article when they become available.

Here's raw video from the shooting scene:

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