Deputy Daren Almendarez killed: Senate Bill 224, toughening penalties for catalytic converter thieves, goes to Texas Senate

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) – The widow of a Harris County deputy sheriff who was murdered while confronting suspected catalytic converter thieves last year has provided powerful testimony to state senators pushing Senate Bill 224, otherwise known as the Deputy Daren Almendarez Act.

“But I shouldn’t live in fear, because I won’t give up. I won’t,” said Flor Zarzoza-Almendarez. “My husband gave his life for me, and not just for me, for the community.”

The bill, named after her late husband, adds a specific theft offense into the Criminal Code for catalytic converter theft. It also creates an increased penalty for those who possess a firearm while on the offense.

Nearly a year ago, Almendarez was killed while confronting suspected thieves who were reportedly stealing a catalytic converter from his personal truck outside a grocery store.

During her testimony, Zarzoza-Almendarez described the moment she and her husband left the store and her life was changed forever.

“All I remember saying was, ‘Wait baby. Wait right here.’ A few meters away from me. The next thing I feel? Running away,” recalled Zarzoza-Almendarez. “All this time, we just looked at each other. I was looking at him. And just that image of me turning around, hearing the shot… but I didn’t think he was shot because he was so brave Man.”

“[I] turn around all i hear is ‘Call 911’. [He’s] walking, he’s just walking,” she continued.

“I see my husband, he comes up to me, we hug,” the widow recalled. “But I know, when we were holding onto each other, he just told me that he couldn’t breathe and that he loved me. We kissed and that was his last breath.”

Three people were arrested and charged with Almendarez’s murder. Their cases are currently working through the legal system.

Investigators said they were part of a larger catalytic converter theft ring.

Zarzoza-Almendarez told the Senate committee that she attends every single hearing because she doesn’t give up on getting justice for her husband.

The bill moved out of committee on Tuesday and is now heading to the Senate floor for a full vote.

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