The Ashland Police Department continues to search for a man they say threatened a hotel employee with a gun Friday morning.
At about 10 a.m. Friday, officers responded to the Plaza Inn and Suites at 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, according to a police news release.
"The assumption is that he was not guest," said Ashland police Det. 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 police. About 15 police cars responded and surrounded the building, according to JoAnne DeRoo, operations manager at the Blue Giraffe Day Spa, which is next to the hotel.
Police evacuated about 30 hotel guests, Stewart said, and conducted a full search of all the rooms.
"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, and all county police agencies were notified.
Police are looking for the man described as a white male, in his 30s, approximately 5 feet 10, with a goatee, wearing a long black coat with a hood, a dark baseball cap and sunglasses.
"(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."
Many hotel guests went downtown for about two hours until being told by the hotel that it was safe to return.
"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, the hotel has been troubled by a transient man who repeatedly trespasses there, 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.
It's not uncommon for the hotel to have issues with homeless people the area near Ashland Creek, according to DeRoo, who does a check every morning at the Blue Giraffe.
"It's so stressful, I feel for Shannon," said DeRoo.
If anyone sees a person matching the man's description, they are encouraged to call 911 immediately. Tips as to 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 web site.
Reporter Mandy Valencia can be reached at 541-776-4486 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org