By Lauren Mickler
EUGENE, Ore. — Eugene police say a man barged into a downtown office, harassed tenants and dumped chemicals in the hall.
Police, fire and HazMat crews all responded and evacuated the building.
Witnesses say it all started when an employee from Balzhizer, who works in a building at 100 West 13th Ave., tried to stop Matthew Madden from trying to steal a woman’s purse out on the street.
That’s when Madden followed the employee inside.
“I heard some loud voices. I heard a guy kind of making a big ruckus, kind of like it was coming from downstairs, and then I got a call from Rosemary at Balzhizer saying ‘you better go lock your door, we have a crazy guy down here,’” said witness Sheri Konowitz.
And that’s exactly what Konowitz did, and she says just in time.
“And as I’m trying to lock the door, I hear the guy walking down the hall toward our office, and I got it shut, I don’t know, maybe 10, 20 seconds before he got there,” Konowitz said.
Konowitz said that aggravated the man, and he started to scream.
“‘Open up this door! Open up this door!’ And when we wouldn’t, that’s when he started getting violent and kicking, and he picked up the fire extinguisher and repeatedly hurled it at the door. Kicked, punched, banged on it trying to get in,” Konowitz said.
As Konowitz called 911, the suspect broke into one of the utility closets.
“He found a gallon of some chemical and he was showing us, ‘I have this’, and he was sprinkling it outside of our office as though he was threatening that he was going to light us on fire. I don’t know what his intentions were, but he was in a very aggressive, violent mindset, and he was definitely letting us know he was up to no good,” Konowitz said.
Shortly after that, police arrived and arrested the man.
At the time, they didn’t know what the chemical was, so the three police officers who were exposed were taken to the hospital and the building was evacuated.
After a little more than an hour, HazMat crews determined the substance was just mold and mildew cleaner.
But even with the chemical spill in the clear, Konowitz and her fellow tenants say they’re still pretty shaken up.
“I’m worried. I don’t really know what to do. The downstairs doors are mostly already locked. You know we’re a business open to the public. You can’t keep your front door locked,” Konowitz said.
Konowitz says she’s worked in the building for more than five years and they’ve never had an incident like this.
Madden is charged with meth possession, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.