• Clermont public works employee accused of threatening neighbor with gun, chainsaw, deputies say

    By: Myrt Price

    Updated:

    MINNEOLA, Fla. -  A dispute over New Year’s Eve fireworks ended with a Clermont public works employee behind bars on charges that he shot at neighbors and threatened them with chainsaw, deputies say.

    One of the alleged victims, who did not want to be identified, said her neighbor, John Wallace Ratcliff, 46, got upset about fireworks that she and her family were firing off from the backyard of her Minneola home on New Year’s Eve.

    “Him and his wife were making racist comments,” the mother of three said.

    Things quickly escalated from there, the alleged victim said.

    “(He said) that we needed to go back to our country and he threatened us, saying this would be my last year here,” the homeowner said. “He then took out his gun and shot twice.”

    After allegedly firing his gun, Ratcliff's neighbors accuse him of threatening them with a chainsaw.

    “He grabbed his chainsaw and started cutting down his fence,” the alleged victim said. “I called the cops because I felt threatened for my life and all my family here.”

    Lake County sheriff’s deputies responded to Ratcliff’s home, but reported the man would not comply with their orders.

    The refusal led to a 20-minute standoff, but Ratcliff eventually surrendered to deputies, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.

    Ratcliff told investigators that he was upset because some of the fireworks his neighbor set off hit his car.

    He was arrested just after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day on a charge of aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony.

    He was released on a $5,000 bond.

    Ratcliff, who is listed as a Clermont park supervisor, was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of his case, city officials said.

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