Learning From the Darren Almendarez Murder
A husband, father, and off-duty deputy died last week when catalytic converter thieves killed him in a Houston, Texas, store parking lot. I present this tragic story consideration in deciding how, when and for what you are willing to die for.
I'll start by saying you're likely to be angered by this post. Some of you will be outraged by the story's facts, and others by what I have to say.
The tragic incident in a Houston shopping center parking lot —
Here are the circumstances as reported by ABC 13 News:
Last week, around 8:30 PM, Deputy Darren Almendarez and his wife exited the Joe V's Smart Shop in the 2900 block of FM 1960 at Aldine Westfield. The couple walked through the parking lot towards their truck. As they approached their vehicle, they noticed a Nissan backed up next to their truck and two men beneath the truck, apparently attempting to steal the expensive catalytic converter off the truck.
Darren told his wife to stay back as he approached the Nissan, which 3 suspects occupied. One of the occupants of the Nissan began shooting at Darren from inside the vehicle.
Darren was struck several times by rounds fired from inside the Nissan. He returned fire as the Nissan sped from the scene.
Paramedics transported Darren to the hospital, where he died of his injuries. Police identified two suspects involved in the shooting as they arrived at the same hospital suffering from gunshot wounds presumably fired by Deputy Almendarez. No one else in the area reported injury.
At this time, there are still several outstanding suspects.
Not a happy ending —
First, if you're like me, you can't read a story like this and not have a sinking feeling in your heart. Most of us want to think that the good guy will prevail in these incidents. But, we realize that isn't how this world operates at a certain point in our lives.
From all reports, it appears that Deputy Almendarez was a caring husband, father, and upstanding man. In fact, the couple's stop at the store that night was to purchase groceries for a cookout later in the week to celebrate his sister's birthday.
And we know that at least two of the suspects were living lives of objective evil.
As reported by ABC 13, one of the suspects in jail named Stewart was arrested in 2019 and charged with ‘unlawful carrying of a weapon,' which was eventually dismissed.
The other dirtbag called Clark had a ‘criminal trespassing' conviction, and later an ‘unlawful carrying of a weapon' charge. As you guessed, the latter charge was dismissed.
Statements about Almendarez's courage —
The mayor of Houston said the following about Almendarez:
I am deeply saddened by the death of Deputy Darren Almendarez. We mourn with our brothers and sisters at Harris County Sheriff's Office, and we extend our support to them as they grieve the loss of the 23-year veteran. Law enforcement is an inherently dangerous job, but what happened is unacceptable. It is a terrible day when a family trip to a grocery store ends in violence and loss of life. Deputy Almendarez will be remembered as a loyal public servant who died while protecting his wife. I ask everyone to join me in praying for the deputy's family, his coworkers, and for the senseless violence to end.
And Texas Governor Abbott released the following statement:
Deputy Darren Almendarez lost his life while answering the call to serve and protect his fellow Texans. This tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of our law enforcement officers' sacrifices both on and off duty. The State of Texas is ready to provide all resources necessary to bring justice to the family and loved ones of Deputy Almendarez. I ask that Texans join Cecilia and me in prayer for Deputy Almendarez's family and the continued safety of all of our law enforcement officers across the Lone Star State.
I agree with both men's comments concerning the often-overlooked dangers law enforcement officers face not only on duty but also off duty. The vast majority of officers are men and women who desire to serve the community and do what is right. The nature of the job requires officers to make critical, split-second decisions with grave consequences and little margin for error. Deputy Almendarez appears to be one of the good guys.
A cautionary warning —
Here is where I hope you can read the following without jumping to a conclusion about my motivations.
We can look in retrospect and find things we might do differently given a chance in almost every incident. So, without taking anything away from the noble actions demonstrated by Almendarez, I think we need to learn from the tragedy.
I just want you to consider the necessity of your involvement in any confrontation. In August 2021, I posted a similarly focused article called Is Your Life Worth More Than a Catalytic Converter? The post was in response to an uptick in catalytic converter thefts in…Houston. Rising crime isn't unique to Houston, and catalytic converter thefts are widespread across the country.
Since that post, I've seen several stories involving confrontations between vehicle owners and catalytic converter thieves. Sometimes they turn out favorable for the good guy, and sometimes not. For example, here is one story from St. Paul, Minnesota, where a man was shot by thieves trying to steal a catalytic converter.
Again, the point here is to consider that any time we are involved in a confrontation, the chance of being injured or killed or having to kill or injure someone else increases. In addition, when we use force against someone will judge the legality of that force. So we open ourselves up to the possibility of needing to defend our actions in court, with the potential to face fines or jail.
Considering ALL potential outcomes —
I don't bring this up as a call to never defend yourself or an innocent person. Instead, it is to consider ALL the possible outcomes of confrontation.
I can definitively say that there aren't enough public statements of praise that any spouse or child would trade for their loved one to be still alive. So we must ask ourselves if Almendarez could have avoided the incident in the Joe V's Smart Shop parking lot? I wasn't there and won't say definitively yes or no. We can't go back and change the tragic outcome.
What we can do is thoughtfully consider making avoidance our first response. If avoidance isn't an option, then consider de-escalation. Suppose avoidance or de-escalation isn't feasible or practical. In that case, we need to be ready mentally and physically to use an appropriate level of force that gives us the best opportunity to survive.
A proper self-defense mindset is a foundation from which we, as citizen defenders, operate.
I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
If you find this content valuable, consider subscribing to the Concealed Carry Podcast, where we discuss a comprehensive array of topics affecting responsible gun owners.
My opinion is that any altercation should be considered as a potentially lethal encounter. They can go from words to weapons almost instantly and with no warning.
It should be looked at in a risk vs reward perspective. Is your truck worth dying for? Would your wife, husband, parent, etc feel the same? Looking at it that way, should make you reconsider if it worth the risk. Stuff can be replaced people can not.
It used to be that it was legal to hang a horse thief… a man’s horse was his means of transportation.
A man’s truck/vehicle is his transportation. If we would start building gallows beside every courthouse, we could either cause some to have second thoughts or with every spinal column stretched we would be cleansing the gene pool & more than likely lowering the bottom feeders of society.
Your comments ring fairly closely to our CCW instructor’s that gave us our class in Arizona. He stressed that if there is an alternative you can take that would increase your safety you take it.
As an example he said “you’re with your family in a mall and someone across the mall starts shooting”. If you and your family are not in immediate danger then you should remove yourself to a safe location, call 911 and then be prepared if need be.
Don’t start out trying to hunt down the shooter/s that’s not your job. Keeping your family and yourself safe is. I think that rings true here as well.
‘When danger reared its ugly head he turned his tail and ran away’ (from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie). So we should wait until thugs become emboldened enough so they start attacking us within our homes? Why don’t we just give hugs and kisses to those who want to steal our property? No wonder the USA is rapidly headed down the drain. Read some Jeff Cooper quotes and man up.
Clark, thank you for your recommendations of Monty Python movies and Jeff Cooper quotes. While Cooper made some good statements, I’m not yet a Cooperite. And try as I might, I just never could pattern my worldview on old British comedy movies.
Can I recommend you study reductio ad absurdum?
Sworn peace officers have a duty to intervene when them see a crime in progress, civilians do not. That said if your walking to your car and they start shooting at you they have pretty much removed your options.
That isn’t accurate John. DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales determined the police don’t have a legal duty to protect an individual unless they are in custody. The coward deputy at the Stoneman-Douglass school shooting who failed to go in to confront the shooter was suited, but that was unsuccessful because of the qualified immunity and precedent.
I would say even if they felt a moral duty to intervene, they should do so using the best approach. Outnumbered at least 4 to 1, off-duty, without a vest, cuffs, less-lethal, etc. means you observe from a safe location and call dispatch. This is at best a property crime with identifiable suspects, not a single reason to rush in to stop them.
May I counter with ‘nice try; no cigar along with GROW UP’?
The “no armor” point is key here. Yes, he’s a deputy, but no armor in the age of the gun. I bought ballistic armor when Covid hit bc it’s not the age of the sword. Perps that blast you down if they see you approach? How precedented is that? After this, we have to assume anyone robbing your vehicle is ready to immediately shoot an approaching threat to their crime and has someone on watch like the perps in the car from a surprise angle. People expect the robber perps to also be the gunmen.
He also didn’t have an ifak with him, according to the report. I carry one in my satchel every day. He didn’t use cover and call out to the perps that he’s police and backup is on the way. They may have run when they didn’t have a shot. Maybe they would have waited till they got the converter, then ran. He walked up and didn’t expect to get blown away from an unexpected angle, but that’s where we are. Perps don’t just run anymore.
I agree safety comes first. If I am in a corned situation then yes, let’s use our weapons and training. But if you have a chance to run to safety and live another day, then by all means do. But I still respect the actions of Darren Almendarez, he may have had other options, but he chose to fight and that still remains a hero in my book