Police: Heroic Safeway employee confronted gunman in store

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PORTLAND, Ore. — A Safeway employee who previously served in the U.S. military for two decades attacked a gunman in the produce section of the Bend, Ore., supermarket, police said Monday, possibly avoiding further casualties of a shooting that left the employee and another person dead.

Police hailed the employee, Donald Ray Surrett Jr., 66, of Bend, as a hero and said his actions may have saved shoppers from the store in the desert town surrounded by mountains in the central part of the state. Customer Glenn Edward Bennett, 84, of Bend, was also killed Sunday night, police spokeswoman Sheila Miller said.

“Mr. Surrett engaged with the shooter, attempted to disarm him, and could very well have prevented further deaths. Mr. Surrett acted heroically in turning this terrible event,” Miller said at a press conference. press as she fought back tears.

Police said on Monday the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; his body was found by the police near an AR-15 type weapon and a shotgun. Police have identified the shooter as Ethan Blair Miller, 20, of Bend.

The shooter lived in an apartment complex behind the Forum shopping mall. Witnesses said he started shooting Sunday night as soon as he left the complex and continued shooting as he entered the shopping complex parking lot and then into the Safeway.

Bennett was killed at the entrance to the store, police said, and the shooter then moved through the aisles “spraying shots” from the assault rifle until Surrett confronted him. The entire incident — from the initial 911 calls to officers discovering the suspect dead in the store — happened in four minutes, Miller said.

Police entered the supermarket from the front and back as shots were still being fired.

Debora Jean Surrett, the ex-wife of the Safeway worker killed in the attack, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Surrett served in the military for 20 years as an engineer of fight.

He was not deployed to active combat zones, but in the 20 years they were married from 1975 to 1995, they were stationed in Germany three times and lived on military bases across the states. -United.

“They are trained to be the first to go to war and the last to go home,” she told the AP.

Bend Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Broadman said Americans “must guard against the cynicism of viewing these attacks on peace and order as regular and unavoidable things. I will not accept this.

“We know that in the face of the kind of chaos we saw last night, we had brave first responders, brave citizens, people ready to defend their neighbours,” he added.

Authorities then found three Molotov cocktails and a sawed-off shotgun in the shooter’s car. The Oregon State Police bomb squad was called in to sweep the suspect’s store, car and apartment for explosives, authorities said, forcing the evacuation of eight surrounding apartments Monday morning.

Miller said reports that there was a second shooter were false.

Authorities are seeking a search warrant to sift through online documents on an unknown number of digital devices they found in the shooter’s apartment, but declined to comment on reports that the suspect posted his plans online in advance. Bend police are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine where the suspect obtained his weapons and whether he did so legally, Miller said.

“We are aware that the shooter may have posted information regarding his plan online. We are investigating this,” she said. “We have no evidence of any prior threats or prior knowledge of the shooter. . We received information about the shooter’s writings after the incident. And the shooter has no prior criminal history in the area.

The shooter graduated from Mountain View High School in Bend in 2020, according to online records, and a former classmate remembers him as an extremely combative person who had few friends.

He was a big fan of mixed martial arts and “tried to fight everybody in Mountain View and kept getting kicked (expletive) and he just never learned,” said Isaac Thomas, who has was suspended for a week as a rookie for fighting with the shooter. The shooter held a grudge from that fight and once threatened to shoot him, Thomas told AP.

“At one point he said he was going to shoot me and I was like, ‘Get it together’ because I didn’t think he had a gun, but I guess I was wrong. “, said Thomas.

Thomas recalled meeting the shooter in 2020 in the Safeway parking lot, where the shooter was picking up carts as part of his job. He recognized him and threatened him again although several years had passed, Thomas said.

“It was kind of crazy when I heard about it,” he said of the shooting. “But it makes sense that he chose Safeway because he worked there and he knew the route.”

Oregon’s elected leaders responded to the shooting Monday by pledging to fight for more gun control.

Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement that the shooting was one of many in Oregon over the weekend and that “Oregonians deserve to be safe from gun violence.” .

Oregonians will vote in November on one of the toughest gun control measures in the country. If passed, Measure 114 would ban high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds – except for current owners, law enforcement and the military – and require a license to purchase any armed.

To be eligible for a license, an applicant would need to complete an approved firearms safety course, pay a fee, provide personal information, submit to fingerprinting and photographing, and pass a background check criminals. The state police would create a firearms database.

Bend is a city of approximately 97,000 people located approximately 257 kilometers southeast of Portland, Oregon.

Associated Press reporters Claire Rush in Portland; Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

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