HOUSTON — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act into law. It created new criminal penalties for catalytic converter thefts.
The bill, which goes into effect immediately, was inspired by a Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy who authorities said was shot and killed while trying to stop three suspects from stealing his catalytic converter in a grocery store parking lot in March 2022.
The Deputy Darren Almendarez Act creates new criminal penalties for catalytic converter thefts and gives prosecutors the flexibility to treat the thefts as organized crime. It was authored by Houston Democrat Sen. Carol Alvarado.
Depending on the amount of loss caused by the theft, under the bill, catalytic converter theft may be a Class C, B or A misdemeanor (loss of $100 to $2,500); a state jail felony (loss of more than $2,500 but less than $30,000); or a third-degree, second-degree or first-degree felony (loss of $30,000 to $300,000 or more). For a more thorough breakdown, read the full bill.
Who was Deputy Darren Almendarez
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez described Deputy Darren Almendarez as a fighter and warrior who committed his life to public service.
Almendarez was a 23-year law enforcement veteran, who most recently served in the auto theft division.
According to Gonzalez, Almendarez was homeless early in his life and worked in the fast food industry. He was trying to make ends meet at a young age before he committed his life to public service.
The sheriff said he knew the deputy both personally and professionally and described him as being “very mild-spoken” and a “very great individual.”
“He's just a great guy. He's had a stellar career for 23 years,” Gonzalez said. “Started as a detention officer, went to patrol, current assignment is in the auto theft division.”
Prior to the shooting, Almendarez was shopping in a grocery store with his wife to prepare for his sister's birthday celebration which was planned for the next day.
Almendarez was a graduate of Austin High School.