Norman Ferris was making what repairmen imagine was a routine call when he stopped in at Oscar Rivera’s house on Ferndale Lane in Palm Coast Thursday to fix a leak in the hose to the washing machine. Ferris, employed by All Brands 24/7 Appliance Service of Ormond Beach, had been there a few days earlier and had told Rivera he’d return with the necessary part.
But he stumbled out after allegedly getting smashed in the head and the back with a metal baseball bat, because Rivera was upset at the bill: $78.75 for the Thursday call and $49 for the call on Jan. 27. Ferris, 56, went from Rivera’s house to Ormond Memorial Hospital for X-rays and treatment. From there, his wife called police to report the alleged assault.
She told Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies the story Ferris himself would tell a deputy later on: that when Ferris reported to Rivera’s house, he installed the necessary part to stop the leak. But when he gave Rivera the bill, Rivera was angry with the price and said he would not pay. So Ferris said he’d remove the part, and went to work doing just that.
Rivera, 76, “became enraged, telling him not to remove the piece,” Rivera’s arrest report states. Not much later, Ferris was allegedly struck on the nose with a baseball bat , then in the face, then in the back. Ferris “was able to grab the baseball bat and throw it into the woods,” the report states, at which point Rivera allegedly said “he was going to get a gun and kill” Ferris.
Ferris immediately got in his truck and left, heading straight for the hospital because of the extent of his injuries. (Ferris is a resident of Ormond Beach.)
Rivera himself flagged down a cop in front of the Portuguese American Club at 10:14 a.m., about 45 minutes before deputies spoke with Ferris and his wife. Rivera told a cop he was on his way to Island Walk, where he remembered there being a police station, to report the altercation. There hasn’t been a police precinct at Island Walk, formerly known as Palm Harbor Shopping Center, for years. The sheriff’s Palm Coast precinct moved to City Market Place almost four years ago. A deputy asked him why he didn’t simply call 911. Rivera answered only that he sought to get to the police station, acknowledging, according to the arrest report, that “it was silly of him not to call 911 right away but he was just so scared.”
When the deputy arrived Rivera’s house, he noticed drops of blood from the end of the driveway leading to the garage, suggesting that Ferris’s injuries had been severe enough to have caused bleeding across the way. There was blood on the lid of the washing machine. There were blood smears on the dial of the washing machine. There were small blood droplets on the wall behind the washing machine. When the machine was pulled out from the wall, deputies discovered more blood on the floor.
As Rivera explained it, he became upset with the price quoted because the part in question costs $10 at any local hardware store. Rivera claims that at that point Ferris “became enraged, started cursing, and then came after [Rivera] trying to choke him, stating he was going to kill him,” according to the arrest report. Rivera said he was able to get away enough to get a baseball bat that was leaning against the wall, and then struck Ferris several times to defend himself until Ferris disarmed him. Rivera says he then ran inside, and Ferris went to his truck and left.
The baseball bat was found later in the woods with dried blood on its barrel. Based on the evidence at the scene, deputies determined that Rivera had been the alleged aggressor. “Based on where the blood was located,” the arrest report concludes, “specifically the blood located on the floor behind the washing machine and on the wall behind the washing machine, it was more probable that [Ferris] was struck when attempting to remove the hose that he had installed.”
Rivera had given inconsistent accounts, and, after hesitating a moment after the deputy asked him if he ever told Ferris that he was going to retrieve a gun, had denied saying so. The report is silent on whether a deputy asked him whether he owned firearms at all.
Rivera was arrested on a felony charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, a second degree felony. He spent 24 hours in jail and was released on $15,000 bond.
Rivera had no prior arrest record locally, and only two previous encounters with the court system: a probate matter upon the death of his wife three years ago, and a small-claims issue brought by the Ford in 2008, over a dispute over a claim of between $5,000 and $15,000, which Ford won.