Police search south Ashland for armed robber

Police are searching south Ashland for an armed man who Tuesday morning tried to rob the Relax Inn on Clover Lane.

A man entered the hotel, in a semi-industrial area near Interstate 5, presented a gun and demanded money at about 11:40 a.m., police said. Minutes later, the man fled on foot across the street — without taking any cash, said Lt. Corey Falls of the Ashland Police Department. The man ran into a parking lot behind Caldera Brewing Co. and was last seen hopping a fence at the end of the lot, Falls said.

Officers believe the robber may still be in the area, Falls said.

He is described as white, between 20 and 25 years old and about 5 feet 6 inches tall with a medium build. He was clean-shaven and was wearing a gray or brown hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants, police said.

Upon entering the hotel lobby, the man first tried to negotiate the price of a room, Falls said. "Maybe that was just a ploy to get in there and then try to steal the money," he said.

After a few minutes, the man brandished a gun and demanded money, Falls said. It was unclear Tuesday whether the employees refused to give the man cash, police said.

When asked whether police believed the man was dangerous, Falls said, "He tried to rob somebody with a gun, so we're concerned."

Police set up a perimeter bordered by the hotel to the north, Highway 66 to the east, Crowson Road to the south and I-5 to the west. Police were also stationed at the entrance to the Oak Knoll Golf Course off Highway 66.

By about 1:30 p.m., police had dismantled the perimeter but were still actively looking for the robber and using a Medford Police Department canine to try to track the direction he may have run. The search conditions were less than ideal because of the rain and snow falling over Ashland throughout the day, Falls said.

Police called off the active search at about 2:30 p.m., Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said.

Detectives are working to interview witnesses and gather video surveillance footage from neighboring businesses, Falls said.

Eduardo Lopez, manager at Miguel's Mexican Restaurant next door to the Relax Inn, said he saw the man from a window in the restaurant.

"I was wiping off a table and I saw a guy running really fast across the street," he said.

Lopez said he was concerned by the attempted armed robbery.

"It is a little scary because I work with money," he said. "It's normally really quiet over here."

Connie McGonagle, owner of the Hot Stuff coffee stand next to the hotel, said she wasn't surprised by the robbery.

"It's so tucked away, it seems like it would be a target," she said. "I just hope (the suspect) came from I-5 and isn't a local. That's what I hope."

Falls said he's not aware of any robberies having occurred at the Relax Inn before, but he recalled a homicide was committed there six years ago. A convicted sex offender was bludgeoned to death on Oct. 29, 2004, by David Michael Jurich, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum 25 years in prison in April 2006.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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