Police evacuated the Lebanon Walmart late Wednesday evening after a suspect sent what officers termed "very serious threats" to several employees.
Lebanon Police Chief Frank Stevenson said a male suspect, apparently distraught over a recent break-up with a store employee, sent the threats through either voice or text message to employees. As a precaution, officers evacuated and secured the Walmart in response to fears that the man had entered the store with a gun.
Shopper Cassie Richey told the Democrat-Herald she was in the checkout line at about 9:20 p.m. when a voice over the intercom ordered everyone out of the store.
"Walking out with the employees, they said an employee's ex showed up with a gun," she wrote in a Facebook message.
However, it was not clear as of 12:30 Thursday if the suspect had actually entered the store, nor was it known how many employees were working at the time.
Richey said the Oregon State Police, Lebanon Police Department, Linn County Sheriff's Office and a police canine unit were on the scene. Representatives of those agencies were still searching the store at 12:30 a.m. A cellphone video showed officers searching vehicles in the parking lot. Armed officers guarded the store with Heckler & Koch G36 rifles.
At 10:15, Richey said police moved her and about 40 others, including the Walmart employees, to the nearby Carl's Jr. and deployed an officer to guard the door. As of 12:30 a.m., they were all still inside. Some, in fact, were cleaning the restaurant while others waited patiently for the incident to end.
Stevenson reported just before midnight that a sweep of the store and surrounding areas showed that the suspect was not in the area.
"We think we know where he is," said Stevenson, indicating the suspect may have fled to another part of the city.
Stevenson said the department would make an announcement when an arrest is made. He said there is no reason to believe the public is in danger.
Walmart corporate officials were not immediately available by phone to comment on the incident.