By KEZI 9 News Staff
EUGENE, Ore. — The man behind a bomb scare that shut down downtown Eugene Tuesday afternoon is behind bars.
Hundreds of people had to be evacuated from the area near 5th and Willamette as police negotiated with a man inside a van claiming he was going to blow it up.
Police say Patrick Smoly, 62, of Corvallis, parked his white van in front of the post office just after 11 a.m. and called a post office worker from inside the van. That worker then called police.
They immediately evacuated the post office and then began evacuating nearby businesses as a measure of safety.
Police then began a lengthy negotiating process with Smoley, who eventually came out of the van without incident.
“Two blocks in every direction. That’s a lot of explosions and a lot of people could be affected by that,” said Judd Warden, Eugene Police Department.
“They did work really fast to get people on roofs. Federal agents are here. Everybody’s doing really well,” said Kerry Rice, witness.
Law enforcement from the local level up to the FBI were all called to the area.
After Smoly was arrested, the bomb squad moved in with robots and found that the white van had no explosives inside.
It’s unknown what Smoly’s motive or state of mind were during this hours long ordeal.
He’s being held at the Lane County Jail and will likely face disorderly conduct charges with additional charges likely on the way.
One of the buildings evacuated was the Hilton — one of the biggest buildings in downtown.
Many people who were inside the Hilton say they were watching the scene unfold from their rooms above.
Their show was cut short though when hotel employees told them they had to leave.
They say they were instructed to leave their belongings and cars and go outside — orders they say were not difficult to follow.
“We had already begun talking amongst ourselves. The post office is close. If something did happen, the windows of the Hilton would not be protecting us, so we had those conversations amongst ourselves,” said Mary Jeane Jacobsen.
The general manager of the Hilton says the hotel was prepared well because they have drills that simulate evacuations.
But hotel staff at the Hilton say it’s still a lot of people to get out of the building, but the evacuation went smoothly.
Hilton guests and employees weren’t the only ones stuck outside. Hundreds of other workers from other nearby businesses were told to get out as well.
Restaurants and bars downtown will have to hope for a few extra customers after having their lunch-time business rush unexpectedly canceled.
Some bars served just a few customers.
Jackalope Lounge only made $31 before police came knocking at their door to tell them they had to evacuate.
Police told them they were in the potential blast radius.
So then many employees spent much of their shift as a bystander.
“We weren’t concerned. It didn’t feel like a threat. The man had already been arrested at that point, and it was just a matter of getting us out of the building,” said Beth Peterson, Jackalope Lounge.
“I consider them to be pretty knowledgeable about what they’re doing. If they figure out what the blast radius is and we’re out of it, then I’m not worried about it,” said Sommerset Patten, Doc’s Pad.
On the other side of the caution tape, the doors remained open, but it was anything but business as usual.
By 2:30 p.m. employees were able to return to work. The caution tape came down, and open signs went back up.