Hundreds of people gathered under the shade of tall ponderosa pines in a Bend park Monday evening to pay tribute to two men killed in a grocery store shooting the night before.
A choir sang gentle songs, local faith leaders offered words of hope, and mourners — some of whom narrowly escaped Sunday’s attack — laid flowers at the foot of the amphitheater beside the tranquil waters of Mirror Pond.
“I’m so angry that this continues,” Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler told the crowd. “I’m so angry that lives were needlessly lost, that terror was experienced in our community … but I don’t accept it. We don’t accept it.”
A community pastor, Morgan Schmidt, urged those gathered to reject the violence that had visited Bend and an ever-growing list of American cities.
“I ask us tonight to refuse to believe that this must be normal,” Schmidt said to applause. “That is my only ask, that we refuse to believe that this is the status quo.”
According to police, a 20-year-old man opened fire Sunday evening on the Forum Shopping Center, a near-daily stop for many who live on the city’s eastern edge.
The gunman killed one shopper, 84-year-old Glenn Bennett, near the west entrance to the Safeway grocery. A store employee, Donald Surrett Jr., 66, attempted to disarm the shooter inside the store before being killed.
Police say the assailant killed himself shortly after. A semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun lay near his body.
Craig Van Bruggen was among those in the crowd at Monday’s vigil. The 33-year-old was in the Safeway when the shooting began, speaking to his wife over the phone about the shopping list. He was able to make it out uninjured and said he credits that in part to Surrett’s bravery.
“Sounds like Donald potentially slowed down the shooter enough to save some lives, and he’s a hero,” Van Bruggen said. “I never met him but he’ll always be a part of my heart for the rest of my life.”
Caroline Beech shops regularly at the store and lives in the same nearby apartment complex where the killer began his rampage.
“It’s just close to home,” Beech said. “We’d go to that Safeway and I think Donald was the guy who put away the bananas. … It’s just important to be aware and loving and gentle. It was good to come and see everybody.”