Richmond County Sheriff Ronald Strength said investigators were still searching for a second burglary suspect Friday after the break-in at the home of Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet.
Overstreet, 65, was awakened at about 4 a.m. Friday when burglars used a large rock to break glass panes in a French door at the judge's home, the sheriff said.
He said the judge grabbed his gun after hearing voices and left his bedroom to investigate.
"The suspect, wearing a bandanna over his face and socks covering both hands, was coming down the stairs toward Overstreet," Strength told reporters Friday. "Overstreet fired one time at the suspect, hitting him in the chest."
The slain suspected burglar was identified as 20-year-old John E. Howard Jr. The sheriff said evidence suggests the judge's home was a random target. Although Howard had been charged with three other burglaries since 2008, he had no prior connection to the judge in or outside of court, the sheriff said.
Howard died about an hour after he was shot at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital, said Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen.
The sheriff said Overstreet, a Richmond County Superior Court judge since 1991, was "visibly shaken" but unharmed after the shooting. A laptop computer was the only item found missing from his home.
Police found no weapon on the slain suspect. Still, the sheriff said Overstreet was justified in shooting him.
"You're protecting yourself," Strength said. "You don't have time to say, 'Sir, are you here just to steal something or are you here to shoot me?'"