ANOTHER HOTEL OWNER has been killed during a conflict with a guest at their hotel in Elkton, Maryland. Ushaben Patel, 59, was shot to death and her husband, Dilipbhai Patel, also 59, was critically wounded, according to local media reports.
The incident comes nearly six months after the beating death of a Mississippi hotel owner, a case that triggered concerns in the industry about ongoing security issues for hoteliers nationwide.
Police in Elkton charged Hakeem Evans, 26, of Newark, Delaware, with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or a crime of violence and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with Ushaben and Dilipbhai’s shooting, according to the Cecil Whig newspaper. Elkton is in Cecil County.
The shooting took place in the lobby of the Patels’ New Eastern Inn just before 9 p.m. Friday. Ushaben was shot in the chest and Dilipbhai was shot in the hip after during the incident, which was captured on surveillance video. The Elkton Police Department identified Evans, who was staying at the hotel, as the man apparently arguing with the Patels through a plexiglass partition.
“The video showed Evans at the partition, speaking with management, and he seemed to be arguing for a short period of time with management, before he puts a handgun through the glass hole of the partition and shoots what appears to be three rounds at the victims before the firearm appears to jam,” according to the Cecil Whig, citing court documents.
Lt. Lawrence Waldridge of the EPD told the Whig that there was a dispute over Evans’ room but the specifics of the argument had not yet been determined. Evans fled the scene after the gun jammed and was apprehended later after refusing to turn himself in. He is being held at the Cecil County Detention Center and a bail hearing was scheduled for Monday.
In August, Cleveland, Mississippi, hotelier Yogesh Patel was beaten to death by a guest he had had evicted from his hotel earlier in the day. That death drew the attention of advocacy group Reform Lodging, which said at the time that hoteliers across the country may face an increased risk to their safety on the job as several states turn hotels into homeless shelters to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Also, an eviction moratorium in most states makes it harder to remove unpaying customers, also increasing the possibility of violence, the group said.
Reform Lodging was aware of the Elkton attack and was still gathering information on the incident on Sunday, said Sagar Shah, president and co-founder of the group and managing principal at Yatra Capital Group in Philadelphia
“At this hour, we do not know the exact details of the dispute the suspect had with the owners leading up to the tragic death of Mrs. Patel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Patel family during this trying time and we wish Mr. Patel a swift recovery,” Shah said. “Reform Lodging has been talking about the dangers hoteliers have been facing due to policy decisions such as the nationwide eviction moratorium, and simple daily interactions with both transient and extended stay guests. Lately, hotel and motel owners are in the news far too often, under tragic circumstances.”
Shah said Reform Lodging would release a statement after solidifying the details of the case.
“We are glad to see that local law enforcement authorities in Delaware were able to apprehend the suspect quickly and trust that the system will hand down justice expeditiously,” he said.