Fencing coach uses sword to foil robbery

Posted at 7:22 PM, Sep 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-30 20:19:05-04

Nashville, TN – A fencing instructor foiled a robbery this week, and he was even dressed to do battle as he chased down the suspected thieves.

Franco Scaramuzza said he always tries to be aware of his surroundings, so when the crime unfolded right in front of him Tuesday in Bellevue, he knew he had one choice.

Scaramuzza was pulling into the shopping center near the corner of Highway 70 South and Old Hickory Boulevard when he saw two men use pepper spray against a couple, then steal a purse.

“The first thing that went through my head is somebody should do something, and that’s when I got really upset and disappointed with myself, because I realized I had the opportunity to do something. And I didn’t want to be a hypocrite who just tweeted about it,” Scaramuzza said.

Scaramuzza then jumped out of his car, grabbed his fencing sword, called an épée, and started charging toward the suspects.

The good Samaritan said he’s been training his whole life for moments just like this. And, as a fencing coach, he knows how to intimidate.

He had just finished practice Tuesday, so he was already on guard with the full outfit and épée in hand.

“I charged towards them, holding my épée up high, and, you know, yelling at them,” he said. “I kept yelling throughout the entire thing. They completely panicked and dropped everything they stole and really took off.”

Police showed up and caught the suspects within minutes. Michael Butt and Zachary Johnson are charged with robbery.

And Scaramuzza said he won this bout using the same lessons he teaches in fencing class.

“You have to overcome your own fears,” he said.

And it only takes a split second to switch from defense to offense.

“You have to make decisions in a very quick amount of time,” Scaramuzza said. “Fencing, you can do it without the weapon. It happens in your mind, and that’s how you try to make the right choices.”

Butt and Johnson remain jailed on $50,000 bond each. Johnson’s girlfriend tells Channel 4 News her boyfriend didn’t do it and contends police picked up the wrong guy.