When Ross Truett Ashley asked to speak to the manager at Gilbert Real Estate in Radford, Va., Wednesday night, the receptionist didn’t suspect anything, according to the company’s owner Jim Gilbert.
It isn’t atypical for college students to ask for the manager, Gilbert said, so the receptionist granted Ashley’s request. His demeanor was apparently non-violent at that point.
However, when Ashley, who Gilbert thinks was wearing a black hat, black shirt and jeans, approached the manager — Joyce Bennett, a New River Valley resident — he demanded the keys to her white 2011 Mercedes SUV.
“She thought the guy was kidding,” Gilbert said. “He just asked.”
But Ashley was not joking. Ashley pulled out a pistol and held it toward Bennett, ordering her to give him her keys. Bennett complied, Gilbert said.
After Ashley left with the vehicle, the police were called, and they arrived within four minutes. The SUV was later found on the Smart Road at Virginia Tech and was returned to Bennett on Thursday undamaged.
Gilbert is proud of how his employees handled the situation, especially Bennett, who he describes as a “strong woman.”
“(Bennett) is the best manager I have ever had,” he said. “Her character shows that she took a stand, and she has decided she is not going to let this hold her back.”
Overall, Gilbert said he is just glad no one was hurt in the incident.
Gilbert Real Estate, which is located on the 600 block of Calhoun Street in Radford, has been closed since Wednesday’s incident, but is set to reopen on Monday, at which time Bennett will also return to work.
Gilbert was not present when these events unraveled; however, he has received the information from those who were.