The retired officer called 911 at 4:22 p.m. to report that multiple burglars had broken into his home as he slept in the 14300 block of 134th Ave. East near Puyallup.
The officer told dispatchers one of the burglars was armed with a pry bar and came at him, said Det. Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
The officer grabbed his gun and fired several shots at the burglars, who then ran away. The former officer was not hurt.
About 20 minutes later, deputies were notified that a man suffering life-threatening gunshot wounds was just dropped off at Puyallup's Good Samaritan Hospital. The man died about a half hour later.
Deputies came to the hospital and found a man and woman inside the truck that had dropped off the injured suspect, and took both into custody for questioning. Troyer said several items found in the truck are believed to be from other burglaries.
A neighbor named Dave saw the aftermath of the shooting and said he empathizes with the retired officer.
"I think you gotta do what you gotta do," he said. "If they're in your house and they gotta crowbar and there's four guys, I'd want a gun, too."
A fourth suspect is still at large, and investigators are now looking into whether the shooting was justified.
"At this point, if people enter your house and they're armed with a crowbar -- if you're out doing burglaries and doing that -- there's a strong likelihood you're going to get shot. People are able to defend their lives and their homes,' Troyer said.
The retired officer has not been identified.