HOUSTON - Two men are currently charged with Deputy Darren Almendarez’s murder after he was shot and killed leaving a Northwest Harris County grocery store with his wife.
BACKGROUND: Harris County deputy killed in grocery store parking lot, 2 suspects detained
Colleagues say it was just like Deputy Darren Almendarez to protect and serve even while off duty, confronting criminals who were said to be attempting to steal the catalytic converter from his truck as he and his wife walked out of this Joe V’s grocery store.
Deputy Almendarez was said to be a beacon of light in the Harris Co. Sheriff’s Office for more than two decades. Now his brothers and sisters in blue are mourning his death.
"Today, although it’s hot outside, the sun has lost its luster because of our loss as a community." President of the Harris County Deputies’ Organization David Cuevas says as he looks at his badge that’s now covered to honor his friend and colleague.
"It’s hard to see it (covered) that way. No sooner than we take off a mourning badge cover then we put one right back on."
Cuevas has known deputy Almendarez since they were in the academy together more than 20 years ago.
"He was a great man. He is going to be truly missed. People like Darren don’t come around all the time."
23-year-old Joshua Stewart and 19-year-old Fredarius Clark are now charged with Capital Murder.
Investigators say Stewart, Clark, and a third man believed to be 17 to 19-years-old were attempting to steal the deputy’s catalytic converter from his truck and Almendarez caught them as he and his wife walked out of Joe V’s grocery.
Stewart and Clark were both injured in the shootout according to detectives and drove themselves to the same hospital where deputy Almendarez was pronounced dead.
"I know he’s with the Lord. We’ve talked about his relationship before. I know he was welcomed in Heaven," Cuevas says.
He choked back tears as he recalled his last conversation with his friend and Deputy Almendarez told him to be careful because violence has gotten out of control.
"That was his way of putting others before him," Cuevas added. "That’s just the type of man that he was."
Deputy Almandarez was at the grocery store because Thursday was his sister’s birthday, and he was supposed to host a party for her Friday night. The deputy leaves behind his wife, daughter, and countless colleagues and loved ones.