Steven Andrew Zinda, 29, was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on a single charge of murder.
"At this point we believe the victim in this case had no involvement in the burglary whatsoever," Sheriff's Deputy Jason Ramos said.
The Sacramento County Coroner's Office did not identify the dead man Sunday.
Ramos described the day's events:
At about 4:30 a.m., Zinda called 911 to report he had interrupted a break-in at his home in the 7200 block of 2nd Street in Rio Linda. Zinda said he had chased, caught and confronted the man, who ran from the home, and that he had injured the burglary suspect in the confrontation, Ramos said.
When deputies arrived, Zinda directed them to a field about a quarter mile from his home. Officers found an unresponsive man, who was later pronounced dead, Ramos said.
The victim had injuries "consistent with an edged weapon being used," Ramos said.
Investigators recovered the weapon, he said. Earlier Sunday, a television station reported the weapon was an axe. Ramos would not confirm or deny the report.
Zinda was interviewed by detectives. Based on the interview and further investigation, detectives believe Zinda made a serious error in an attempt at "vigilante justice," Ramos said.
Zinda may have seen someone leaving his house, Ramos said. He went inside for a weapon, and when he returned, he saw the victim, who ran.
"The victim had the misfortune of being in the immediate area when Zinda discovered the burglary," Ramos said. "Zinda thought he was involved and chased him down."
Ramos said a homeowner has the right to protect himself and family from an intruder. But the force used has to be justified, he said.
"If you use deadly force a quarter mile away from your house, you'd be hard pressed to articulate some kind of imminent threat," he said.
Hey, I hate a thief just as much as the next motherfucker but the simple fact is that once the intruder flees, he no longer poses a threat and under the law, deadly force is not justified.
And the simple fact of the matter is that no matter how much me or you hates a thief, that crime just doesn't justify a killing (unless you live in Texas) - a thorough ass-whipping, yes - but not death. And I'm pretty sure even Texas frowns upon killing a thief that has left the scene.
And as far as the victim running away? Hey, if I was unarmed and saw a pissed off motherfucker running towards me with a fucking axe, I'd haul ass too.