The man who police suspect of brutally killing his former neighbor early Friday in Hopkins used an ax to force his way into the victim’s residence, violating a restraining order to carry out the killing, police said.

Officers responding to a burglary call at 3:40 a.m. at a house in the 200 block of 10th Avenue N. found a 67-year-old man who had been dragged from the house and severely beaten. The victim, who suffered “sharp-force injuries” and a “significant amount of trauma,” died at the scene, said Hopkins Police Sgt. Michael Glassberg.

The victim’s wife, who was home and called police, took shelter as the attacker used an ax to chop in the front door. She was able to tell police that a 24-year-old man who used to live next door was behind the vicious attack, Glassberg said.

Police would not say if the ax was the weapon used in the killing, but they found it when they arrested the suspect at his home just a block away, they said. The suspect had moved away from the victim’s block four years ago.

Investigators are still trying to piece together a motive for Hopkins’ first homicide since 2009, but said the suspect may have been holding a grudge. The victim and suspect had several run-ins over the years. In recent months that included threats and vandalism, court documents show.

In April, the victim reported to police that someone had vandalized his old car that he sold to a roommate who also lived at the victim’s house on 10th Avenue. The report said the words “pedophile” were scratched on all four sides of the vehicle. Police followed up but no further action was taken.

The victim filed for and was granted a restraining order on July 27. The victim said the suspect had harassed him for six months, and specifically during June and July, walked by his home in “zombielike fashion,” yelled obscenities and threatened to harm him by saying things like, “I’ve got a slug for you,” according to the restraining order.

The victim had also contacted police seeking advice on how to handle the situation, Glassberg said.

“He was concerned for his safety,” Glassberg said. “The victim did everything right. He did not deserve this. It’s so unfortunate on so many levels.”

The protection order prohibited the suspect from being on the 200 block of 10th Avenue, including the street, sidewalks and alley.

Glassberg described the victim as a longtime resident of Hopkins who even cared for his 100-year-old neighbor. “We had no issues [with] him,” Glassberg said. “He was a good guy.”

Dave Benson was awakened by his wife at 4:30 a.m. Friday after she saw police lights flashing outside their house. He went outside to see the block taped off and about a dozen police cars.

“It completely blows me away,” Benson said of his neighbor’s slaying. “I knew him well.”

Mark Leach, who lives on the block where the incident occurred, said his neighbors were aware of a dispute involving the victim and the suspect. Still, he said, “It’s shocking.”

Charges against the suspect could be filed as soon as Monday.