ELKTON — Investigators are trying to identify two men who attacked a retired law enforcement officer — and widely known first responder — at the front door of his downtown home late Sunday night in an apparent robbery attempt, police reported.
Police officials identified the victim as Joseph G. Zurolo, a retired deputy state fire marshal who served more than three decades with the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, which he joined after suffering an on-duty injury as an Elkton Police Department officer in the early 1970s. Zurolo also is a lifelong member of Singerly Volunteer Fire Co., which he had joined in 1971, and he is a member of the Harford-Cecil County Fireman’s Association Hall of Fame, to which he was named in 2017.
In addition, according to Capt. Joseph Zurolo, the EPD spokesman who released the information concerning the incident, Zurolo is his 70-year-old uncle.
The incident occurred at Zurolo’s home in the 200 block of West Main Street at about 11:15 p.m. Sunday, when Zurolo opened the front door after hearing a knock, police said. Zurolo saw a man standing there, holding open the exterior storm door, police added.
“The suspect said, ‘I want your money and your drugs.’ The victim was perplexed because he doesn’t have any drugs,” Capt. Zurolo said, adding that, while the victim does routinely use prescribed medication for health reasons, it would not appeal to someone seeking street narcotics.
After the victim refused, the man tried to force his way into the home, resulting in a scuffle, police reported.
In a Facebook message he posted Monday, Zurolo summarizes, “He (the suspect) pushed his way in, grabbed me, tearing my shirt. The fight was on. No way was I going to let him inside my house. We engaged in exchanging punches. I hit him in the face a couple of times. I was holding my own.”
That’s when a second suspect who had been lurking nearby emerged and also attacked Zurolo.
“They were banging my head into the door. One punched me in the chest, knocking me to the floor. I thought for sure they were going to kill me,” Zurolo outlines in his account on Facebook.
That’s when his pet dog, Max, scared off the two assailants.
“My buddy, Max, came to my rescue. He barked so loud that the two guys fled without taking anything. Max saved my life,” Zurolo recalls on his Facebook page.
Capt. Zurolo told the Cecil Whig, “My uncle’s dog is very protective of him.”
EPD officers and paramedics responded to the home, after Zurolo called 911 to report the incident, police said. Zurolo had a scratch on the side of his head, but he refused medical treatment at the scene, police added.
Zurolo went to a hospital emergency room on his own Monday morning, according to him.
“The doctors determined I had (suffered a) mild concussion,” he reports in his Facebook message.
The first suspect who came to Zurolo’s door is described as a white man, in his early 20s, standing about 5 feet 8 inches with an average build, long brown hair and a scruffy goatee. That suspect appeared “ragged and dirty” and had many tattoos, police reported. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
As for the suspect who joined in the attack on Zurolo, he is described only as a white man.
Anyone with information that might help investigators identify one or both of the suspects is asked to call EPD Det. Lindsey Ziegenfuss at 410-398-4200, ext. 41.
Capt. Zurolo noted that the attempted home invasion at his uncle’s residence Sunday night occurred less than a day before a recently installed surveillance camera in the 200 block of West Main Street was activated.
“The camera, which is near my uncle’s home, wasn’t activated until Monday,” Capt. Zurolo said.