ELKTON, Md. - With a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bumper sticker on the front door, a blue light in the window and an American flag waving proudly over the front steps, the signs all point to the house on Main Street in Elkton being a poor target for a home invasion robbery, not to mention the owner.
"You ain't messing with some retired cop. I've got news for you," said Joseph Zurolo, Sr., but when retired deputy state fire marshal opened his door to find a would-be thief demanding money and drugs on Sunday night, it became clear this criminal didn't get the message.
"I said, 'Well, you ain't getting no money from me cause I ain't got any and drugs? Forget that. I don't have any narcotics. I take a lot of other shit... stuff', and I said, 'No’," recalled Zurolo.
When the druggy thief then tried to force his way inside the house, the same 70-year-old man who spent most of his life fighting crime and fighting fires showed he still had plenty of fight left in him.
"He grabbed me and tore my shirt, and I wasn't going to let him take another step in there,” said Zurolo, “I hauled off and punched him twice and then we went at it and the next thing I know, the second guy comes in and he started on me and I punched him in the throat."
Battling two assailants at once, the thieves got the upper hand, pounding Zurolo's head against the door repeatedly before knocking him to the ground.
But that's when elderly man's best friend, his 11-year-old lab named Max, came to the rescue.
"Max started his barking, which is a different bark than he normally has and they were gone,” said Zurolo, “They didn't know whether or not he was going to attack them or not."
We asked Zurolo's nephew, a captain with the Elkton Police Department who shares the same name, if his uncle's actions ran counter to the typical advice to comply with robbers' demands.
"I think you know him as well as I do. That's not going to happen,” said Capt. Joseph Zurolo, “My uncle's is retired law enforcement for 35 years. It's not in his makeup to yield. His law enforcement training, knowledge and experience kicked in. I'm sure he held his own even for a 70-year-old gentleman."
With the help of a partner that has backed him up for more than seven decades now... in dog years.
"He's got a bark on him that would scare anybody to death,” said Zurolo, "I've raised him from a puppy. He's very protective of me. He's my true hero in this."
Zurolo describes his primary attacker as a white male of average build, with long, straggly, light brown hair and multiple tattoos on his arm.
I would add he may have bruising about the face.
You have any information, which could help police, you can call 410-398-4200.