Wanted man allegedly hides beneath mobile home, igniting standoff with Sullivan police

Rain Smith • Apr 8, 2013 at 11:58 AM

A wanted man ignited a standoff with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office late Sunday night after allegedly jumping through a "trap door" to hide from bondsmen, then refusing to come out from underneath his mobile home for responding officers.

Police set up a perimeter around the residence, with reports of the suspect possibly being armed forcing the temporary evacuation of neighboring homes. After about an hour a thermal imaging camera allegedly located the hiding sport John Ratcliff Jr., 24, with him giving himself up just before a K9 was released.

The incident occurred at 679 Deck Valley Road, lot 14, in Bristol, Tenn. A SCSO arrest report says bondsmen were attempting to locate Ratcliff when he "went through a trap door" in the floor of the trailer and refused to come out.

SCSO Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart says the bondsmen called police to request assistance at approximately 11:15 p.m. A check of Sheriff's Office records revealed Ratcliff had active warrants for aggravated assault, unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon and failure to appear. He was originally arrested in December of last year with American Bonding posting his bail, according to Earhart, but he failed to show up for his March 14 court date.

Due to his past charges, and the bondsmen telling officers Ratcliff may be armed with handgun, police set up a perimeter around the mobile home. Through a loud speaker he was commanded to give himself up but refused, according to police, while adjacent neighbors were temporarily evacuated from their homes.

Police report a thermal imaging camera was brought to the scene by the Sullivan County Volunteer Fire Department. Officers circled the trailer with the camera and removed a piece of underpinning, allegedly receiving a heat signature and then visibly spotting Ratcliff's elbow and shirt.

Officers reportedly ordered Ratcliff to crawl towards the opening but he failed to comply. It wasn't until a K9 was brought to the opening and about to be released that Ratcliff reportedly came out.

Once in custody Ratcliff allegedly became combative with officers and intentionally banged his head against a patrol car. A police report says he was then taken to the ground for his own safety, according to a report, with police clearing the scene just before 1 a.m.

Ratcliff was arrested on the active warrants and additionally charged with resisting stop or arrest. As of Monday morning he remained held in the Sullivan County jail.

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