Beechview man fends off fake utility workers
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They said they worked for the gas company. They had the hard hats and the uniforms to prove it.
But when Tom Guzzi led the pair of men to the gas meter in the basement of his Beechview home about 7 a.m. Saturday, he found himself locked in a struggle for his life.
One man brandished a pistol while the other shocked him with a stun gun as many as 15 times in a robbery attempt Mr. Guzzi can't understand. The 70-year-old is legally blind, suffers from severe arthritis and has for years been living on Social Security. He's 5-foot-7 and just 150 pounds. What, he wondered, did they want from him?
"It was two against one and I was cornered," Mr. Guzzi said Saturday night. "I was so scared out of my mind that I would have done anything to get out of there."
The men kicked and punched him, hit him with a hammer and shattered his best china vases over his head. Mr. Guzzi said they brought their own zip ties and duct tape.
He managed to grab the stun gun from one attacker's hands as the batteries died. One man shoved a handgun in his mouth as the other yelled "Shoot him, shoot him!"
"I said, 'Oh God, not here, please, God,'" Mr. Guzzi said and batted the weapon out of his face. "I didn't want to die." Though he lives alone, he yelled out for his brother John to call 911, a ruse to startle his attackers.
It worked. Scared, the men started running for the steps toward the kitchen, and "I ran up behind them, like an idiot." As the struggle continued, the men hit Mr. Guzzi over the head with a portrait of St. Christopher, patron saint of safe travel, that was hanging on the wall. That seemed to turn the tables. "Somebody was looking out for me," he said.
Mr. Guzzi grabbed the first thing he could find -- a pot off the stove -- and hit one of the men with it, knocking off his hard hat. The phony workers darted out the door and out of sight.
Pittsburgh police remained at the bloody scene for hours as doctors used 27 clamps to close the wounds in Mr. Guzzi's head.
Detectives said his is a cautionary tale and warned homeowners to be aware of who they let inside.
Mr. Guzzi said the men were among a group of five people posing as gas workers who came to his house earlier in the week and peering into his yard. They claimed they needed to do work on the gas line, but had no ID and no equipment, he said. He told them to come back with a supervisor.
But when they returned Saturday and he let them in, he said, "I just wasn't thinking."
Mr. Guzzi said he feels safe in his home but has nevertheless armed himself beyond his cookware.
"I'll be prepared for anything," he said. "If they come in (again), it will be the last time."
The robbery squad urged those with information to call detectives at 412-323-7151.
First Published July 15, 2012 12:00 am