A 20-year-old gunman had killed an elderly shopper at a Bend Safeway on Sunday evening and was still shooting up the supermarket when an employee engaged him, potentially putting a stop to what might have been a far worse attack, police said Monday.
In a news conference, Bend Police confirmed that the shooter was 20-year-old Ethan Blair Miller.
The two victims in the attack are Glenn Edward Bennett, 84, who was shot near the front of the Safeway, and Donald Ray Surrett Jr., the 66-year-old employee who attacked Miller.
“Mr. Surrett engaged with the shooter, attempted to disarm him, and very well may have prevented further deaths,” said Bend Police Department spokesperson Sheila Miller, who is not related to the shooter. “Mr. Surrett acted heroically during this terrible incident.”
Debora Jean Surrett, the ex-wife of the Safeway employee killed in the attack, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Surrett served in the Army for 20 years as a combat engineer. He wasn’t deployed to active combat zones, but during the 20 years they were married from 1975 to 1995, they were stationed in Germany three times and lived on military bases across the U.S.
”They’re trained to be the first ones to go into war and the last ones to come home,” she told the AP.
In addition to Surrett and Bennett, two other people suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack.
Just four minutes elapsed from the time police first received calls about the shooting at 7:04 p.m. and when officers found Ethan Miller dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound within the store, police said. Police arrived on scene while shots were being fired, but did not fire their weapons, Sheila Miller said.
Officers found a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun near the killer’s body. They said he acted alone.
Police did not comment on a potential motive Monday, and could not say whether Ethan Miller had previously worked at the Safeway, as some neighbors have said.
Bend officers focused their efforts Monday on the Fox Hollow apartments, a cluster of light blue buildings behind the shopping center where Miller lived and, police said, began his shooting attack.
I’m outside the alleged shooter’s apartment, where police are executing a search warrant. One truck has bullet holes in the side and police carried out a bunch of stuff, including some computers. pic.twitter.com/Qu3xOxAHta— Joni Auden Land (@JoniAudenLand) August 29, 2022
A woman who lives next door to a unit police were searching told a reporter she’d been evacuated after 11 p.m. Sunday because of a potential bomb threat in the building. She spent the night in a hotel.
“They had to wait for a bomb squad from either Portland or Salem to deal with it,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
Police swept both Miller’s apartment and the Safeway for bombs, they said. They found three Molotov cocktails and a sawed-off shotgun in his vehicle, and recovered ammunition and “digital devices” from his apartment. A Ford truck outside the apartment appeared to have bullet holes on its side.
Neighbors told OPB that Miller had recently moved into the apartment.
Several neighbors said they heard the shooting start in the complex, before the sound trailed off as the shooter headed toward the Forum Shopping Center.
Ender Crafard was one grade behind Miller at Mountain View High School, and wound up living in a nearby apartment. He described Miller as athletic and reserved, and said he’d been vocal about his affinity for guns.
“You could tell he was kind of a connoisseur,” Crafard said. “I just assumed he was raised in a gun family... I wouldn’t have picked him to do that kind of thing. He didn’t give off that kind of vibe.”
Other former students who spoke to OPB described Miller as aggressive in school, and someone who frequently tried to start fights with classmates.
Lori Bender, who lives across from the apartment, said she heard shots right outside her apartment.
A person who lived near the unit identified the shooter as Miller, a former student of Mountainview High School in Bend. Two other people who attended high school with Miller also independently told OPB that he was the shooter.
An online account in Miller’s name posted several writings in the months leading up to the shooting, expressing suicidal ideation and a desire to hurt others. The writer of those posts stated he wanted to carry out a school shooting at Mountainview High School on Sept. 8, the first day of the school year. Officials with Mountainview told OPB on Monday morning that they were not aware of any threats against the school.
Ryan Heming lives in a neighboring complex and said he heard five shots fired quickly. Looking out the window, he saw a man wearing all-black firing a large gun at random.
Heming said he saw the man running toward the Costco parking lot, shooting at people before eventually heading toward the Safeway.
“He was shooting and laughing,” Heming said. “He just unleashed lots of bullets … I was shaking all night.”
A few minutes later he said he saw two women — one holding a baby — running away from the Safeway. They were customers in the store as the shooting broke out. Heming opened his door and told them to come inside his apartment to wait out the danger.
“The baby was crying, couldn’t stop crying,” Heming said.
Jennifer and Jason King have lived across the street from Miller’s apartment complex for the last 15 years. They said they heard three distinct barrages of gun fire on Sunday night around 7 p.m., each seeming successively further from their home and toward the direction of the Safeway. They soon saw people running from the area of the nearby shopping center where the shooting took place.
“We heard from one of the guys at the Safeway that it was a 20-year-old who used to work there,” Jennifer King said, still shaken the morning after a killing so close to her apartment. “There’s been a drive-by here before and a shooting in one of the apartments. Never a mass shooting.”
The FBI confirmed it is assisting the Bend Police Department with “intel analysis and investigative technology.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also said in a statement that the Oregon State Police were also assisting.
“Every Oregonian should be able to go to a grocery store without the fear of gun violence,” Brown said in a statement.
Bend area Republicans also reacted to the shooting, saying their “thoughts and prayers” were with Bennett and Surrett. State Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp called Surrett “heroic,” and said more money should go to mental health care in the state.
“I am committed to the funding necessary to provide access to mental health services that will treat people with mental health issues before they gain access to a firearm,” Knopp wrote.
At a press conference Monday, Bend Mayor Pro-Tem Anthony Broadman called on his city to unite in the aftermath of the attack.
“We have to stand together. We will,” he said. “We know that in the face of the kind of chaos we saw last night we have brave first responders, brave citizens, people willing to stand up for their neighbors. Nothing illustrates Bend and Central Oregon more than that.”
Ryan Haas and the Associated Press contributed to this story.