The Ashland Police Department continues to search for a man who they say threatened a hotel employee with a gun Friday morning.
At about 10 a.m., officers responded to the Plaza Inn and Suites, 98 Central Ave., where a hotel employee said she was approached by a man inside the hotel who pointed a handgun at her and threatened her, police said in a news release.
"The assumption is that he was not guest," said Ashland police detective Bon Stewart, "He saw the employee and approached her under another pretense. She turned her back on him, and when she turned around he had a gun and made a threat of harm to her."
The woman quickly ran away and called the cops. About 15 police vehicles responded and surrounded the building, according to JoAnne DeRoo, operations manager at the Blue Giraffe Day Spa, which is next to the hotel.
Thirty hotel guests were ordered to evacuate by police, who conducted a full sweep search of all the rooms, Stewart said.
"I've been here seven years, and I've never had anything like this happen," said Shannon Johnson, general manager of the Plaza Inn and Suites.
According to police, the downtown area was checked thoroughly, and a county-wide broadcast was put out to all police agencies.
"(We) will be looking out for that person all day," Stewart said. "We had no description of his route, so we don't know which way he went."
The hotel said it was safe for guests to return after about two hours.
"Everyone was really calm," said guest Richard LeGates from Oakland, Calif., who was reading a book in the hotel lobby at about 2 p.m. "They said they will have security guards here tonight."
According to Stewart, a transient man repeatedly trespasses at the hotel, and some of the employees believe the suspect in this case may be the same man.
"He's never done anything of this nature before," said Stewart.
However, it's not uncommon for the hotel to have issues with homeless people in the area near the Ashland Creek, according to the Blue Giraffe Day Spa's DeRoo, who does a check every morning at the Blue Giraffe.
"It's so stressful. I feel for Shannon," DeRoo said.
Anyone who sees a person matching the man's description is encouraged to call 911 immediately. Tips on the person's identity, or any other pertinent information, can be made to the Ashland Police Department at 541-482-5211, through the anonymous tipline at 541-552-2333 or through the department's website.
Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or by email at email@example.com.