This neighborhood dispute on New Year’s Day nearly had a violent resolution, police say.
John Ratcliff’s next-door neighbors in Minneola, Fla., were making noise and shooting off fireworks to celebrate the arrival of 2018, the 46-year-old told police.
When one of those fireworks hit Ratcliff’s car, Ratcliff fired back, police said — but with racial slurs and two shots with his gun. targeting the Hispanic family next door, WFTV reports.
“(He said) that we needed to go back to our country and he threatened us,” the homeowner, who declined to be named, told the TV station. “He then took out his gun and shot twice.”
Then the dispute escalated further.
Around 1 a.m., Ratcliff picked up his chainsaw and started cutting away at the fence separating his property from his neighbors’, WKMG reports.
“This is going to be your last year here,” Ratcliff yelled at the victims, the TV station reports.
As he sawed through the fence, he kept screaming threats and slurs at the family, WKMG reports. The victims recorded the incident on video, and showed it to Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies when they arrived at the scene.
“I called the cops because I felt threatened for my life and all my family here,” an alleged victim told WFTV.
Ratcliff wasn’t exactly compliant with the deputies that morning, the Daily Commercial reports.
Deputies told him to show his hands, but Ratcliff wouldn’t, forcing law enforcement to surround the house during a 20-minute, profanity-laced stand-off. Ratcliff was finally taken into custody just before 1:30 a.m.
Ratcliff was booked on charges of aggravated assault with the intent to commit a felony, WFTV reports.
Ratcliff admitted to law enforcement that he had been drinking. During the standoff, he even had a beer in hand, according to an arrest report reviewed by the Daily Commercial.
After his arrest, Ratcliff also told the deputies that he didn’t realize who they were — “even though I made multiple announcements and commands directed towards him,” one deputy said in the arrest report WFTV reviewed.
A foreman for the public works department in Clermont, Fla., Ratcliff is now on administrative leave, WKMG reports.
Ratcliff’s wife also made racist comments to the family next door, the alleged victims told WFTV.
Ratcliff was released from jail on $5,000 bond, according to the Daily Commercial.