When a gunman entered a supermarket and began shooting at people, an Army veteran knew he had to act. Without hesitation, the brave hero grabbed his knife and ran towards the danger.
Police say a veteran’s heroic actions may have saved others from Ethan Blair Miller, an active shooter at a Safeway in Oregon. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)
Police say 20-year-old Ethan Blair Miller had formerly worked at Safeway in Bend, Oregon for a short time before he decided to go on a killing spree with his AR-15-style rifle. Police discovered four 30-round magazines on his body as well as a sawed-off shotgun, three Molotov cocktails, and additional ammunition in his car, suggesting that the shooter had planned to take out as many civilians as possible.
Miller first fired off shots into his own car as he left his apartment and continued shooting as he headed into the grocery store, the Statesman Journal reported. As he walked inside, he fatally shot 84-year-old Glenn Bennett and began “spraying shots” throughout the aisles as customers fled for their lives. Fortunately, there was a hero in their midst.
Army veteran Donald Ray Surrett Jr, 66, moved toward the threat instead of running away. (Photo Credit: Facebook)
Surveillance video footage captured 66-year-old Donald Ray Surrett Jr, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran and a Safeway employee, taking cover behind his produce cart near the gunman. Police say Surrett had plenty of time to escape the store without the gunman noticing but chose to stay for the sole purpose of stopping the massacre.
Surrett waited until Miller was looking the other way before coming out of his hiding spot with a knife that he drew from his hip. He then attacked Miller but was gunned down in the process, KTVZ reported.
“Video surveillance shows that upon hearing gunshots in the Safeway, victim Donald Surrett Jr, had ample time to flee the scene but instead moved a produce cart into position to hide from the attacker,” Bend police said in a statement. “When the suspect approached, Surrett waited for the suspect to look away, then attacked the suspect with a produce knife he kept on his hip. The suspect shot and killed Surrett, then ended his own life as officers entered the building.”
Donald Ray Surrett Jr drew a produce knife from his hip and attacked Ethan Blair Miller long enough for customers to escape. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)
Police say Miller turned the gun on himself as officers closed in on him in the supermarket. Detectives found 50 shotgun shells between his car and apartment and dozens more casings from his rifle in the store.
Although Surrett failed in taking down the gunman, police believe his actions distracted the shooter long enough for others to escape. In fact, survivor Craig Van Bruggen believes that Surrett’s sacrifice may be the reason he is alive today.
“Sounds like Donald potentially slowed down the shooter enough to save some lives, and he’s a hero,” Van Bruggen said.
Ethan Blair Miller killed an 84-year-old man and Donald Ray Surrett Jr before turning the gun on himself. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)
Safeway employee Alex Theesen, who worked with Surrett, said that his heroic actions have given him the courage to return to his job in the aftermath of the shooting.
“I want to show my respects to Don, and I want to honor the fact that he did what he did,” he said. “He protected a lot of people, and I think that it’s good for people to go there and kind of find some peace in that.”
A Go Fund Me has been set up for Surrett’s widow, Jacqueline Surrett, to pay for the funeral and living expenses. Within a week, more than $118,000 had been donated by citizens inspired by Surrett’s selfless sacrifice.
Surveillance footage showed that even though Donald Ray Surrett Jr had plenty of time to escape, he chose to sacrifice his own life so that others could get away. (Photo Credit: Go Fund Me)
While Ethan Blair Miller has no criminal record, former classmates and those who knew him have described him as angry, violent, and prone to getting into fights. Following the tragic ordeal, investigators said they were looking into Miller’s digital devices for more evidence as to his motive.
Although the incident tragically resulted in the loss of two lives, Donald Ray Surrett Jr will be remembered as a hero who sacrificed himself to save others. As a veteran, his willingness to die for his fellow citizens was a creed he carried with him from his active duty to his everyday life.