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Army veteran hero killed while trying to stop active shooter

Police car lights. (Alexandru Cuznetov/Dreamstime/TNS)
August 30, 2022

A U.S. Army veteran was one of two people killed by an active shooter at a grocery store in Oregon on Sunday after he charged the gunman and helped put an end to the attack.

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66-year-old Donald Ray Surrett Jr. was among two people fatally shot when a gunman entered a Safeway grocery store in Bend, Oregon on Sunday. In a statement, the Bend Police Department said Surrett attempted to disarm the active shooter in “a heroic act for which we are so thankful for.”

Surrett was working at the time as a Safeway employee and, according to Oregon Live, had served in the Army for 26 years.

Surrett was killed alongside 84-year-old Glenn Edward Bennett. The active shooter suspect, identified as 20-year-old Ethan Blair Miller, took his own life after the struggle, NBC reported.

Miller reportedly had an AR-15 style rifle and a shotgun on his person. Police also found a second sawn-off shotgun and three Molotov cocktail firebombs in his vehicle, along with additional ammunition and what police called “digital devices.”

In a Monday Facebook post, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said, “While we are still gathering the facts about last night’s shooting, it’s clear that far more people could have been killed if not for the heroism of Donald Ray Surrett, Jr., who intervened to help stop the shooter, and the officers who entered while shots were still being fired. In the face of senseless violence, they acted with selfless bravery. Their courage saved lives. Please join me in keeping the families of Mr. Surrett and Glenn Edward Bennett in your hearts today. Know that all of Oregon grieves with you.”

Ex-wife Debora Jean Surrett told Oregon Live that Donald Surrett had been a combat engineer. The two had been married for 20 years before they divorced and she had raised three children with him as he took postings across the U.S. and Germany.

Though they had divorced, Debora Jean said she was heartened to hear her ex-husband had given his life in an act of heroism.

“He was trained to do that kind of thing, because that’s what a combat engineer does,” she told Oregon Live.

Steven Harder told Oregon Live that he knew Surrett through their local chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Surrett had been the adjutant treasurer for the organization.

“All he wanted to do was help those that needed help,” Harder said of Surrett.

Surrett had also helped out at a local Seventh Day Adventist Church. Jeff Coleman, the former pastor of the church, said Surrett had a reputation for being dependable.

“He was one of these people that’s always there,” Coleman said. “When he said he’d be there, he’d be there.”

Last month, an Army veteran off duty cop was paralyzed after he was shot in the back while trying to stop a bar fight.