A masked robber entered a PremierWest Bank branch Thursday afternoon, displayed a handgun and took cash from all three tellers before fleeing on foot toward the YMCA parking lot, police said.

A masked robber entered a PremierWest Bank branch Thursday afternoon, displayed a handgun and took cash from all three tellers before fleeing on foot toward the YMCA parking lot, police said.

"This is the time of year, around Christmas, when these things ramp up," said Ashland police Sgt. Jim Alderman. "We're looking into whether this could be connected to other armed robberies in Medford or other nearby cities."

A man wearing a dark stocking hat, sunglasses and a bandana-like cloth over his face entered the bank at 2235 Ashland St. at 2 p.m. Thursday, police said.

He displayed a silver or chrome semiautomatic handgun in front of all three tellers and told them he was robbing the bank, Alderman said. The robber then worked his way down the teller line, grabbing an undisclosed amount of money from each station. One customer was in the bank, along with about half a dozen employees, Alderman said.

The bank's alarm system and a 9-1-1 call from one of the employees alerted police to the robbery, he said.

Police described the robber as a white, stocky man, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, wearing all black.

Detectives believe he ran from the bank, through hedges onto YMCA Way and into the YMCA parking lot. A Jackson County Sheriff's Department dog tracked his scent that far, but then lost the trail.

Investigators suspect that the man got into a vehicle, possibly a small black SUV, Alderman said.

"We believe there may be more witnesses who were by the YMCA," he said.

Detectives are looking into whether the robbery could be connected to several recent robberies in Medford, Alderman said. The Sterling Savings Bank branch at 1420 E. McAndrews Ave. was robbed by an armed man on Nov. 9 and the PremierWest Bank branch at 2600 E. Barnett Road was robbed by a man with a note demanding cash on Sept. 14.

"We're going to compare notes with other agencies that have had recent bank robberies," Alderman said. "We don't know if this is connected, but it's always a possibility."

Anyone who saw the man or a vehicle leaving the area this afternoon is asked to call the Ashland Police Department at 541-482-5211.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.