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The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office is investigating after a man and a 14-year-old harassed a family over a "landlord-tenant dispute" in Owasco, deputies said. 

According to a press release, at around 10:50 p.m. Sunday, tenants called 911 to report that two males had parked a tractor in their driveway and posted a large sign in their yard on North Road. The men were allegedly armed with a shotgun and fired a round before leaving in a vehicle. 

Sheriff's deputies and New York State Police responded and observed the vehicle in the area at around 1 a.m., the release said. At that time, officers tried to stop the vehicle, which took off on a short pursuit before crashing in a ditch on Town Hall Road. 

The sheriff's office said 50-year-old Eric Simmons, of Baptist Corners Road, Owasco, and a 14-year-old were taken into custody uninjured. The 14-year-old was then released to a parent. Simmons is a friend of the landlord, deputies said.

Simmons was arrested and originally charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon with a previous conviction, a class D felony, and second-degree menacing with a weapon, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and endangering the welfare of a child, all class A misdemeanors. He was initially released from the Cayuga County Jail Monday morning on $5,000 bail.

However, he was arrested again later on Monday after a court-ordered seizure of any and all weapons owned by Simmons determined he was in possession of numerous handguns illegally, according to a press release. He was arraigned on six additional counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Simmons is currently being held in Cayuga County Jail on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond. 

One of the victims, Jeffery Richardson, posted about the incident on Facebook. Richardson, who is black, told The Citizen he viewed it as a hate crime as he watched two white males display a cut-out of a black bear on his lawn with a handwritten sign that read, "Get out." 

"All because I'm black living in a white neighborhood is what it comes down to," he wrote.

But sheriff's office Lt. Michael Wellauer said there is nothing to indicate that race was a factor. 

"This was a dispute that resulted over a rent payment," Wellauer said. "At this point in time, we do not have anything that indicates this was a hate crime. ... We will certainly follow this and address this anywhere it leads, but at this time we do not have any information that leads us in that direction." 

The investigation is still ongoing. 

Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr. 


Crime and Courts Reporter