STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. -

Sterling Heights police have arrested three men who were allegedly involved in the theft of a safe and the assault of a 55-year-old man.

It happened early Saturday morning at Sunnybrook Golf and Bowl. The thieves targeted a safe in a poker room, which is rented out by charitable groups. Police believe one of the men was playing poker early Saturday morning and rigged an outer door so he could re-enter.

At about 2:30 a.m., an employee was checking to see that all the doors were locked.

John, who asked Local 4 not to use his full name, says he yelled at a man carrying the safe outside. The man dropped the safe and punched John in the face.

"He grabbed me around the throat and put a knee in the middle of my back and started choking me,” he said. “He had me in a choke hold for almost two minutes. I was not able to breathe at all."

He went limp, hoping the man would relax his choke hold. He tightened it. John tried to grab his attacker, who was standing behind him.

"My thought was, 'He’s gonna kill you so you better do something.’ As soon as I felt my fingers hit his face, I went straight up with my thumbs and must have got him in the eyes," he said.

At that point, the man let him go, but realized his two accomplices drove off without him.

"He called his buddies asking where the heck are you? He was absolutely frantic -- really worried," said John.

The men returned to pick him up. Employees quickly phoned police and gave a description of the vehicle -- a Crown Victoria with no hubcaps. The men were arrested only two miles away.

The safe was recovered at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the deck.

Police identify John’s attacker as Clemon Beverly. He is being held on a $100,000 bond. The other defendants, Neal Shaw and David Collazo, have $50,000 bonds.

Sunnybrook owner Randy Shank says Sterling Hts. police did a “tremendous” job. He thanked John for his bravery, but says he wishes he had not chased the thief.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Shank.

John is sore, but has already returned to work.

“You get bucked off the horse, you get back on,” he said.