A customer at a downtown pawnshop helped thwart a theft from the business Tuesday afternoon by chasing the would-be thieves and assisting in their capture.

Two men in their early 20s came into Sportsman's Pawnshop, 1458 S. Main , about 1:10 p.m. asking to look at a 9 mm pistol.When the employee pulled the gun from the display case, the men grabbed it and ran out of the shop, said a pawnshop employee. The suspects fled in a brown, four-door Chevrolet Celebrity, which had been reported stolen earlier that day, Salt Lake police officer Mike Riedel said.

Two other men were waiting inside the car when the suspects ran out, according to shop employees. The car with the four men fled south down Main Street.

A reserve police officer from Centerville was inside the pawn shop when the suspects ran past him after taking the gun. He followed the car until the suspects were involved in a two-car collision at the intersection of Utopia Avenue (2185 South) and West Temple.

"My instincts just took over," the reserve officer said. "I just naturally go after stuff like that."

When the accident occurred, the four suspects ran in different directions. One ran east on Utopia Avenue and was apprehended by an employee from the Hi-Grade Meat Co., near where the accident took place, and the other was caught by the reserve police officer. A third suspect was arrested later by police, said Salt Lake Police Lt. Phil Kirk.

The gun was recovered by police and is being held as evidence. The three men were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of shoplifting. Further charges of fleeing a crime scene and auto theft are pending, Kirk said.