HUNTSVILLE — William Clinton Robbins should have called 911 rather than seeking to stop what he thought was fleeing thieves.

That was the ruling of Scott County Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton Thursday, as he sentenced Robbins to three years in prison for the death of a 20-year-old Clinton man in December 2015.

Robbins will effectively serve six months in jail after being convicted by a Scott County jury of reckless homicide in the death of Nickie Brumitte. Sexton approved alternative sentencing for Robbins, who will serve four years of supervised probation after his six-month jail sentence.

It’s a much lesser penalty than Robbins originally faced, when he was charged with second degree murder. However, the jury found him not guilty on that charge, instead returning the reckless homicide conviction.

Authorities say that Robbins fired 17 shots from his 9mm handgun into a pickup truck being driven by Brumitte on New Year’s Eve. The truck was leaving Robbins’ Mountain View Road residence west of the Robbins community, where it had been parked by Robbins’ niece, Sheriann Turner.

Turner had taken the truck from her estranged husband, Josh Turner, while the two were engaged in a bitter divorce battle. After posting a selfie with the truck on Facebook, Sheriann Turner parked the vehicle at her uncle’s home. Josh Turner, in turn, enlisted some friends — including Brumitte — to accompany him to Robbins’ home to retrieve the vehicle, which belonged to him.

Robbins has contended from the beginning that he did not know the vehicle was being reclaimed by Turner, instead saying he believed it was being driven away by random thieves.

But attorneys for the state argued that Turner did not have the right to use deadly force, even if the vehicle was being stolen. In Thursday’s hearing, District Attorney General Jared Effler and assistant D.A. David Pollard used Robbins’ application and examination for a handgun carry permit against him, in an attempt to prove that he was aware of the limitations on his right to use deadly force as a means of defense.

The state even sent TBI agent Brandon Elkins to the stand to testify that gun violence is on the rise in Tennessee. Effler said that is a trend that should not be excused.

“A lot of folks think guns are the solution to all the issues,” Effler said, adding that Robbins should pay for taking “the matter into his own hands.”

Sexton sided with the state, saying that Robbins’ use of force was not a Second Amendment issue.

“We don’t have the right to pull the gun every time,” Sexton said. The judge added that excuses are increasingly being made for reckless behavior. And, he said, “it just didn’t have to be that way.”

Three of the 17 shots fired by Robbins entered the cab of the truck, with one striking Brumitte in the head. He died a short time later. At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, his aunt testified that Brumitte was a “good kid,” never in trouble, who did not deserve to die.

The 47-year-old Robbins will report to jail on May 5 to begin serving his sentence. He will be released by Thanksgiving but will remain on supervised probation for four years.

Even with the reckless homicide conviction, he could have spent as much as four years in prison.