Bend, OR – A 66-year-old U.S. Army veteran working at a Safeway store heroically sacrificed himself to save others after a gunman opened fire inside the supermarket on Sunday, according to police.
Investigators said the suspect, 20-year-old former Safeway employee Ethan Blair Miller, lived at the Fox Hollow apartments located near The Forum shopping center where the grocery store was located, the Statesman Journal reported.
Prior to the shooting, the gunman walked out into the parking lot of the apartment complex and shot up his own 1997 Ford F-250, according to KTVZ.
Ethan Miller allegedly continued firing off rounds as he made his way through the parking lot of the shopping complex and headed into the Safeway store, the Statesman Journal reported.
As he approached the front door, he fatally shot 84-year-old Glenn Edward Bennett, then proceeded inside with an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun and began “spraying shots” throughout the aisles as shoppers and workers ran for their lives, according to police.
As the attack continued inside, two people who escaped the building ran back in to pull Bennett to safety, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Security footage showed store employee Donald Surrett, a 20-year military veteran, taking cover behind a produce cart inside the store as Ethan Miller made his way towards him, the Statesman Journal reported.
Police noted that Surrett had plenty of time to flee to safety, but that he instead attacked the gunman with a produce knife while the shooter was facing away from him, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Investigators said his heroic act likely saved many lives, the Statesman Journal reported.
“Mr. Surrett engaged with the shooter, attempted to disarm him and may very well have prevented further deaths,” Bend Police Department Spokesperson Sheila Miller told reporters while trying to hold back tears, according to the Statesman Journal. “Mr. Surrett acted heroically turning this terrible event.”
Ethan Miller fatally shot the 66-year-old military veteran, then turned the gun on himself as police swarmed the store.
The entire incident occurred over a period of just four minutes, the Statesman Journal reported.
Police located a shotgun and an AR-15-style rifle next to Ethan Miller’s body.
He was also carrying four 30-round magazines for the rifle, according to police.
Investigators said they recovered more than 100 shell casings from the apartment complex, the shopping center, and inside the Safeway store so far, KTVZ reported.
A sawed-off shotgun and three Molotov cocktails were allegedly found inside the suspect’s vehicle, according to the Statesman Journal.
Investigators said additional ammunition was located in Ethan Miller’s apartment and vehicle, KTVZ reported.
Bend police said the firearms were all legally purchased and that Ethan Miller had no prior arrests or known contacts with police prior to the attack.
Investigators noted they are also searching through online posts the suspect allegedly made discussing a planned attack on his alma mater, including a note that he decided to act sooner because “the Rage has become uncontrollable,” the Statesman Journal reported.
“A lot of people sent us follow-up information about what has been posted on social media or other outlets and our investigators will sift through that information and make those connections – if it’s truly connected – and ensure that we have accurate information,” Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz told reporters.
Surrett’s coworkers described him as a dedicated and cheerful employee, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
He went to the store’s floral department every Thursday – which was delivery day – to pick up a fresh bouquet for his disabled wife, according to Lisa Morrison, who worked in the flower center for seven years before her retirement last December.
“He’d say, ‘OK, girls, did you get some fresh stargazers today?” Morrison recalled, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Every week – every week – he would get fresh stargazers and take them back to his wife. It was just the sweetest thing.”
Donors have contributed more than $111,000 to a fundraiser set up to help Surrett’s family in the wake of their loss.
A fundraising campaign established for Bennett, who was also a military veteran, has raised more than $49,000 so far.