Deputy Micah Flick, in a photo released Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 by the El Paso County Sheriff.

(Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff)

Authorities are investigating what happened before El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick was shot and became the third law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in Colorado since New Year's Eve.

Authorities said Flick, other deputies, officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department and the State Patrol were investigating a stolen car Monday afternoon when they physically struggled with an adult male suspect and shots were fired, according to Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey.

The officers involved were plainclothes detectives, but who were wearing "clearly visible" placards identifying them as police: all had badges around necks, all were wearing bulletproof vests. "This was not an unusual event," El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said Tuesday. "It's not like it was a tactical call out or anything.”

The lone suspect was killed, authorities said, adding that no more details on the man would be released until he had been officially identified.

Flick, 34, was married and had two children and had celebrated his 11th anniversary with the sheriff's office Monday. He “was extremely well respected, did a great job at what he did. It's why he was a detective, it's why he progressed through the ranks in a quick fashion. He will be missed," Elder said.

"This was my biggest fear," he added. "It doesn't get easier, I can tell you, it doesn't get easier. But we will emerge from this stronger. The community can be proud of what these men and women do."

"It's heartbreaking to hear a mom and a wife explain to the children that dad's been killed and he's now with Jesus," he said.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered flags flown at half-staff in Flick's honor.

"We want each officer, every deputy, to know we are grateful for their service," the governor said.

Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish, 29, was shot and killed in a New Year's Eve confrontation at a Highlands Ranch home.  Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm, 31, was shot and killed Jan. 24 during a chase that followed a fight at an apartment complex near Thornton.

Hickenlooper said in a written statement that the deadly violence against officers is having a chilling impact and the state "must come together and say enough is enough."

The fatal shooting occurred in a neighborhood of single-family homes, apartments and retail stores just east of downtown Colorado Springs, a city of about 465,000.

Two other deputies, a Colorado Springs police officer and a bystander were also shot and wounded, authorities said. All were hospitalized.

Jason Adams, 52, who lives nearby, told the Colorado Springs Gazette he heard gunshots and ran to the scene, which he described as a "war zone."

He said he saw emergency responders tending to three people lying on the ground, one of whom appeared to have bullet wounds in the side of his torso.

Police remained in the area hours after the shooting, while other officers and bystanders lined the streets to watch as a procession drove Flick's body from a local hospital to the county coroner's office.