(Reuters) - Three suspected burglars were shot dead inside a Texas home on Monday when a man who lived there fired a shotgun at the invaders and was wounded himself in a brief gun battle, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
The wounded survivor was undergoing surgery and unlikely to face criminal charges as he had the legal right to defend his home, Gonzalez told reporters at the scene in Channelview, about 20 miles (30 km) east of Houston.
"The law allows residents inside their own homes to defend themselves," said Gonzalez, adding that the matter would nonetheless be referred to the grand jury for an inquest.
"The one with the shotgun was able to shoot at the three males and they were all pronounced dead here at the scene," Gonzalez said.
The violence broke out shortly after 8 a.m. local time when three men dressed in dark clothing entered a mobile home where two other men lived. The suspects backed their car toward the home and left the engine running as if they planned a fast getaway, but their exact intent was unknown, Gonzalez said.
There may be a fourth suspect who fled the scene, he said.
One of the two men who lived in the home escaped while the other grabbed a shotgun, Gonzalez said.
The resident with the shotgun was believed to have been shot by a handgun during the gun battle. No other gun was immediately recovered but it may have been concealed beneath one of the bodies, he said.
"It appears they were committing some type of home invasion or burglary," Gonzalez said. "Crime doesn't pay. Eventually you are going to end up dead or in jail."
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Giles Elgood)