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(HOUSTON) — Three people have been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of an off-duty Texas congressman, authorities said.
The incident happened around 8:30 p.m. Thursday night outside a North Harris County grocery store.
Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez, 51, and his wife were walking to their car from the store when he saw two men under his truck who allegedly tried to steal the vehicle’s catalytic converter, authorities said .
Almendarez told his wife to run. As he approached his truck, the suspects began shooting at him, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Almendarez returned fire, punching two of the suspects, before they fled from the parking lot in a car, the sheriff said.
The MP was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead from his gunshot wounds, authorities said. Almendarez’s wife was not injured.
The two suspects injured in the swap showed up at the same hospital in the suspect’s vehicle later that night in stable condition, authorities said.
The suspects – Joshua Stewart, 23, and Fredarius Clark, 19 – have been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Almendarez, authorities said Friday.
A third suspect wanted in the incident, 17-year-old Fredrick Tardy, has been arrested and charged with capital murder, authorities said Friday night.
Stewart was denied bail on Saturday, court records show. At a hearing on Saturday, probable cause was found in Clark’s case, according to court records.
Stewart and Clark are due in court on Monday. Attorney information was not immediately available for the three suspects.
Almendarez was a 23-year veteran of the agency and had served in the auto theft unit for the past year, Gonzalez said.
“Heartbreaking,” the sheriff said after the deputy was identified.
Almendarez “loved being a deputy” and was an “outstanding member” of the agency, Gonzalez said.
“A remarkable man and public servant. Humble beginnings, grew up in the Second Ward and played sports in Settegast Park,” Gonzalez said on social media. “From his first teenage job at Whataburger in Harrisburg to achieving his goal of being a cop.”
The sheriff’s office shared a video highlighting Almendarez posted earlier this year.
“I work a lot on my days off and my free time, but I don’t mind that,” Almendarez said in the video. “I’m going to help as much as I can because it’s right, it’s right to do something like that.”
“You go home with not only a sense of relief but also a sense of satisfaction, like, I did my job, I did what I could and I helped somebody.”
Cop killers deserve the death penalty.https://t.co/zCnVDy2BBC via @houstonchron
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 2, 2022
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called for the death penalty for the deputy’s murder.
“Deputy Darren Almendarez lost his life answering the call to serve and protect his fellow Texans, and this tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make both on duty and in out,” Abbott said in a statement.
– Gina Sunseri of ABC News contributed to this report.
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