Chainsaw-wielding man yells racial slurs at Lake County neighbor, deputies say

Deputies say suspect walked around with beer in his hand during standoff

John Racliff is accused of threatening his Lake County neighbor on New Year's Eve.
John Racliff is accused of threatening his Lake County neighbor on New Year's Eve. (LCSO/WKMG)

MINNEOLA, Fla. – A Clermont Public Works foreman is on paid leave after he was arrested on New Year's Day for allegedly threatening his neighbor with a chainsaw and yelling racial slurs, precipitating in a short standoff with Lake County deputies.

John Ratcliff's next-door neighbor called the Lake County Sheriff's Office to her Minneola home at 1 a.m. after she said her 47-year-old neighbor was in his backyard with a firearm and screaming vulgarities toward her and her family, according to the arrest report.

The victim said Ratcliff held up the firearm and said, "This is going to be your last year here." Ratcliff then grabbed a chainsaw and began cutting down his fence connected to the victim's yard, all the while still screaming racial slurs and threats, the victim told deputies.

Deputies said they watched video taken by the victim of Ratcliff wielding the chainsaw.

When deputies arrived Ratcliff told them to "suck my (expletive)" and did not comply with orders to show his hands, according to the arrest report. Deputies surrounded the house and after a 20-minute stand off Ratcliff was taken into custody at 1:24 a.m.

Deputies said Ratliff was walking around with a beer in his hand during the standoff.

Ratcliff told deputies he didn't know that they were law enforcement, "even though I made multiple announcements and commands directed towards him," a deputy wrote in the arrest report.

A city spokeswoman said Ratcliff, who has been employed with Public Works since 2006, was place on paid administrative leave Tuesday pending a review of the incident.

City policy states that an employee will be placed on leave "if an employee exhibits actions on or off the job that can negatively impact operations or the city’s reputation," Clermont director of communication Tracy Jacim said.

Ratcliff is charged with aggravated assault and intent to commit a felony. He posted $5,000 bail later on New Year's Day.

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