Two masked, gun-wielding robbers who burst into Doug Downs' Chanceford Township home early Tuesday morning made their intentions clear.
"One of them said, 'You know, after we get the money, we're going to kill you,'" said the 48-year-old Downs, who is disabled. "And I thought, 'I have to do something.'"
What he eventually did is grab a .380-caliber handgun -- one of three guns he kept hidden in his recliner -- and repeatedly shoot the would-be robber who made that statement. Police identified the shot robber as James Herlth, 20, of Red Lion.
Herlth remains in York Hospital and will be charged with robbery, burglary and related offenses once he's well enough to be discharged, said Trooper Jonathan Colarusso, one of the lead state police investigators working the case.
First Downs struggled with Herlth but stopped when Herlth threatened to shoot him, according to state police.
That's when Peaches, a 1-1/2-year-old Jack Russell terrier/pug mix, stuck her short brown nose into the situation.
Went 'bonkers': "Peaches saw me fighting with this guy and just went bonkers, jumping up on him and barking. I think she was trying to protect me," Downs said. "He looked down at her, and that's how I was able to grab my gun and take care of business."
Downs said he shot Herlth three times in the chest, but the man merely took a step back.
"I thought he must be wearing a bulletproof vest," Downs said. "So I aimed for his head. ... He staggered over to the stairway, his pistol dropped out of his hand and he ... slid down the stairs."
State police said Downs shot Herlth in the neck, chest and hands, and Herlth dropped to the floor.
How it started: The chaos began about 12:40 a.m. Tuesday when Herlth and Chad Heath Miller shot the lock on Downs' door and barged in, according to charging documents. The two wore masks and carried guns, police said.
Miller forced Downs' roommate and caretaker, Andy Boyd, to the
"When I opened the safe, he really freaked out because all he saw were a whole bunch of guns," the 36-year-old Boyd recalled. "He asked where the money was and I just started throwing (Downs') antique coins. He realized he wasn't getting anything of value."
Boyd said that's when they heard Downs firing upstairs. Boyd said he stayed in the basement while Miller climbed the landing to where Herlth was lying.
Downs said he fired at Miller as the gunman was coming up the stairs, "but he didn't drop either."
Miller yelled for accomplice Robert Dale Young, who'd been waiting outside, and the two men carried Herlth to their getaway vehicle, according to charging documents. Alleged fourth accomplice Jacob David Dittenhafer had stayed in the vehicle, according to charging documents.
Friendly fire: During the chaos, Young fired a 12-gauge shotgun at Downs' door, and shotgun pellets struck Herlth in the arm, according to police.
The four robbers fled Downs' home, in the 3700 block of Brownton Road. Police were alerted by York Hospital officials that a man with multiple gunshot wounds -- Herlth -- had been brought to the emergency room.
The botched robbery unraveled quickly, with police arresting three of the four men.
Downs said he doesn't understand why criminals keep targeting him.
His home was burglarized twice in 2008, and late that year or in early 2009, people tried to rob him at gunpoint as he was walking from his car to his home, Downs said.
Tired of it: Downs estimates the burglars made off with about $225,000 worth of his property, including cash, antique coins, a Civil War sword, his mother's jewelry and other items.
"I'm tired of being held up at gunpoint. I'm tired of my life being threatened," he said. "I don't keep money at the house at all anymore, and I don't know why this keeps happening."
Downs and Boyd said they now live off Downs' disability checks.
"I guess people think I still have money in the safe, but I don't," Downs said.
Downs and Boyd still have plenty of work to do in the aftermath of the home invasion. There's blood on their carpets and bullet holes in the walls, they said. Plus, they had to have a new lock installed on their door.
"It looks like a war zone," Downs said.
Alarm system: The men said they're also beefing up their security alarm system by adding cameras both inside and outside the house.
Boyd said well-wishers have been very supportive.
"We had about a hundred calls today," he said on Wednesday afternoon.
Downs said he will continue to keep guns to protect himself -- and said he only had guns hidden in his recliner because of the three 2008 incidents.
"I felt bad because I had to shoot (Herlth)," he said. "But it was either him or me, and I wanted to live."
Locked up: Miller, 33, of 14 High St. in Felton, remains in county prison on $200,000 bail, charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary and related charges.
Young, 26, of 1963 Adair Road in Lower Windsor Township, is locked up on $100,000 bail, charged with robbery, burglary, reckless endangerment and other offenses.
Dittenhafer, 24, of 116 Park St. in Springfield Township, is in prison on $75,000 bail, charged conspiracy to commit robbery and other charges.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at email@example.com.