HOUSTON (KIAH) — An off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy was shot and killed after confronting three suspected car thieves in north Houston Thursday night.

Deputies were called to the shooting at the parking lot of a grocery store on the 2900 block of Aldine-Westfield Road near FM 1960 around 9 p.m.  

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that the off-duty deputy, who was with his wife, saw three suspects that were in the middle of stealing catalytic converters off his truck.

When the deputy, identified as Darren Almendarez, approached the suspects, they began firing at him, authorities said. Almendarez returned fire and struck two of the suspects, but he was also seriously wounded.

Almendarez was later transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It devastates us to announce our deputy has been pronounced deceased. Please keep his family and our members in your prayers,” Gonzalez tweeted.

One suspect is listed in critical condition, while the second is in stable condition, authorities said. A third suspect fled the scene, Gonzalez said.

Almendarez was a 20-plus year veteran of HCSO, who was assigned to the auto theft taskforce.