Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Darren Almendarez was off duty when he exited an Aldine Westfield grocery store with his wife and saw two or three male suspects who appeared to be burglarizing a motor vehicle.
"Possibly a catalytic converter that was being stolen," Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a news conference. "We're not sure. Those details are still being investigated. But, he intervened. He intervened to try to stop a crime."
According to FOX 26, Almendarez saw what appeared to be theft happening to his own vehicle.
The 51-year-old was then confronted by the suspects. He was able to grab a pistol, although there was a bit of a struggle.
Almendarez was hit during an exchange of gunfire but was able to strike two people who later drove themselves to the hospital.
"And, really a hero, because as all of this was unfolding he had the mindset to make sure he was protecting his wife. He told his wife to run, to get away from danger, as he put himself in harm's way to protect the rest of the community and to try to stop a crime," Gonzalez told reporters.
He called the death tragic and called crime in the community "unacceptable," noting that there is possibly a third individual on the run.
Almendarez, a 23-year veteran of the sheriff's office who was most recently assigned to the auto theft division, was also remembered as a "fighter."
FOX 26 reported that the suspects went to HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest, where the deputy later died. Gonzalez said the suspects are in stable condition.
The station noted that authorities currently don't have the identity of the third suspect.
Almendarez's body will reportedly be taken to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
"Deputy Darren Almendarez loved our community and worked hard every single day to make the world a better and safer place," the Houston Police Officers' Union wrote on Facebook early Friday. "His sacrifice will never be forgotten and he will always be remembered. Rest in peace, brother."