A 93-year-old suburban Los Angeles homeowner, who a relative said was frustrated over being the victim of numerous home break-ins, shot and critically wounded a burglar and scared off the would-be thief's accomplices, according to authorities.
The retired plumber, identified as Joe Howard Teague by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, turned the tables on the group of home invaders early Wednesday when he grabbed his gun and confronted them inside his house in Moreno Valley, the sheriff's office said.
"I approached them to put them under citizen's arrest. They wouldn't adhere to that and then one of them came at me with a fishing pole," Teague told reporters outside his home Thursday.
He said the suspects, who entered his home after kicking open his door, began throwing things at him as he tried to hold them at gunpoint.
"It was just like somebody comes to a gunfight with a pocketknife, you know," Teague said.
Teague called 911 at about 12:30 p.m. and reported a burglary in progress at his home, the sheriff's office said in a statement. As deputies responded, Teague told a dispatcher he was holding several suspects, according to the sheriff's department.
Teague said the suspects included at least one woman.
When deputies arrived at Teague's home, they found one of the suspected burglars suffering from a gunshot wound.
A witness told deputies that several people were seen fleeing Teague's home on foot prior to the arrival of deputies.
The wounded suspect, identified as Joseph A. Ortega, 33, of Moreno Valley, was hospitalized in critical condition, according to the sheriff's department.
"Investigators have established that several individuals, including Ortega, were inside Teague’s property when a shooting occurred," the sheriff's department said.
Teague was not injured. He was taken to a sheriff's department station, questioned and released, authorities said.
Sheriff's department officials said it appears the shooting was justified, but added that the investigation is ongoing.
"Based on the severity of Ortega’s medical condition, the Central Homicide Unit responded to the scene and assumed the investigation," the sheriff's department said.
Investigators are working to identify the other assailants. No arrests have been announced.
Oscar Malma, whose wife is related to Teague, told ABC station KABC in Los Angeles that Teague had been the victim of a string of recent break-ins, including one that occurred on Friday.
Malma said the elderly man had grown increasingly frustrated over his home being targeted by thieves and the response from local police.
"He was tired because every time he calls the police, the police were taking forever to come and assist him," Malma said.
He said a burglary Friday at the man's home occurred in broad daylight.
"And now this happened in the middle of the night," Malma said. "He was defending his property. That happened inside of his home. So, I don't think there would be any reason for him to be arrested."