A man tracked down his stolen truck in Texas Thursday and confronted the alleged car thief, who was killed in an ensuing gunfight with the car owner, police said.
The Ford truck's owner and a woman with the suspect were also wounded in the shootout at the South Park Mall parking lot in San Antonio, authorities said.
The truck's owner spotted his stolen vehicle a short distance from where he had left it, police said.
He came up to his truck and, at gunpoint, ordered a man behind the wheel and a woman in the passenger seat outside, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters.
The man and woman were seated on the ground, being held at gunpoint, when police were called, McManus said.
Then about two minutes after that call but before officers arrived, the suspect pulled his own gun and shot the Ford's owner prompting him to return fire, killing the alleged car thief, McManus added.
The woman with the suspect was critically wounded in the shooting.
"The bad guy is the one dead, yes," McManus said. "The driver of the stolen vehicle is deceased, shot by the owner of the stolen vehicle."
While McManus called the truck owner's actions an act of self-defense, the chief stopped short of endorsing what he did.
"Look, he was trying to recover his property," McManus said. "I guess it would depend on who you asked if he did the right thing or not."
The law enforcement official urged the public not to take matters like this "into your own hands."
"We would prefer that (you) call the police before taking that into your own hands," McManus said. "But he (the truck's owner) did what he felt he needed to do and we have one dead suspect and we have a critically wounded passenger who was with the suspect and we have a wounded owner of the vehicle."
The identities of the three people involved were not immediately revealed.
The truck owner is 45, the suspected car thief was 34 and the woman with him is 25, authorities said Friday.
There was a woman accompanying the truck owner when gunfire erupted but she was not wounded, police said.
Texas law allows greater latitude for recovery of stolen property, so the truck's owner could be in the legal clear, said Alexandra Klein, an assistant law professor at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
"It's certainly more desirable to ask law enforcement for assistance in these kinds of situations and the whole thing is terribly tragic — but potentially, under Texas law, he may have been acting within what the law says he got to do," Klein told NBC News on Friday. "The specific provision that authorizes deadly force to recover property is different (in Texas), a lot of other states don't allow the use of deadly force under any circumstances to recover property."