One of the victims fought to disarm the suspected gunman during Sunday’s fatal shooting at a Safeway grocery store in Bend, Oregon, according to police spokeswoman Sheila Miller.
Two people were killed, police said. They were identified as Glenn Edward Bennett, 84, a customer who was shot in front of the store, and Safeway employee Donald Ray Surrett Jr., 66, who fought the shooter in the produce section, Miller said.
“This is the Safeway employee who engaged with the shooter, which is to say he attempted to disarm the shooter and attacked this person, and we believe he prevented further deaths in addition to the quick police response,” Miller said. “Mr. Surrett acted heroically during this terrible incident.”
Gov. Kate Brown released a statement on Facebook Monday honoring Surrett.
“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,” Brown’s statement said. “In the face of senseless violence, they acted with selfless bravery. Their courage saved lives.”
The gunman – identified by police as Ethan Blair Miller, 20 – was found dead at the scene and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the police spokeswoman said.
Police found an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun close to Miller’s body, according to Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz.
The shooting unfolded shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday at a shopping center, Krantz said. Police initially received reports there may have been more than one shooter, Sheila Miller said, but there is no evidence of a second shooter. There were reports of at least two other people who had injuries that were not life threatening, as well, she said.
The motive remains unclear, but police are aware of online posts that might be relevant, Sheila Miller said.
“We are aware that the shooter may have posted information online regarding his plan. We are investigating this. We have no evidence of previous threats or prior knowledge of the shooter. We received information about the shooter’s writings after the incident had taken place and the shooter has no criminal history in the area,” Miller said.
Safeway said in a statement the company was saddened by the “senseless violence.”
“Our thoughts and actions now are directed toward supporting our associates, customers, and the community affected by this tragedy. We thank the officers at the Bend Police Department for their response and will continue to support the department’s investigation over the coming days,” the company’s statement said.
Sunday’s shooting follows a spate of other grocery store shootings across the country in the past year and amid an overall surge in “active shooter” incidents, according to an FBI report.
In May, 10 people were killed in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack in Buffalo, New York. A “hero” security guard and a beloved teacher were among those gunned down.
In March, another 10 people were gunned down at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. A veteran police officer with seven children was among those killed.
Last September, a gunman shot 15 people – including one fatally – at a Kroger in Collierville, Tennessee. Some people hid in freezers to survive.
How the shooting unfolded
Miller said police received multiple calls of shots fired around 7 p.m. at the Forum shopping center in northeast Bend.
The gunman entered from an apartment complex behind the shopping center, Miller said. He moved through the parking lot while firing rounds from an AR-15-style rifle before entering the Safeway.
Once inside, he shot a customer – Glenn Edward Bennett – who died while being taken to the hospital, Miller said.
The gunman continued to make his way through the store before having an altercation with and fatally shooting Donald Ray Surrett Jr., Miller said.
“As our officers responded, they entered Safeway while shots were still being fired. They found the apparent shooter dead inside Safeway,” Miller said.
An AR-15 and shotgun were found near the gunman’s body, Miller said. Bend police did not fire any shots, she said.
How the gunman obtained firearms is under investigation. Because of online postings, Bend police also contacted the Oregon State Police Bomb Squad, who cleared the grocery store and the apartment complex, Miller said.
Police said it’s unclear how many people were in the store at the time of the shooting.
Officers were on scene within three minutes of the first 911 call, Miller said. It took four minutes from the time officers were dispatched to the time the shooter’s body was found, police said.
Plans appeared to be posted online
A search warrant was served on the gunman’s vehicle and home, Miller said. Investigators found three Molotov cocktails in his car along with a sawed-off shotgun. Police are working with the ATF to learn if the firearms were legal.
In his apartment, authorities found additional ammunition and digital devices that are currently being reviewed.
CNN has identified several blog entries appearing to belong to Ethan Miller which were published on the blogging site “Wattpad” detailing a plan and reasons for the shooting. The posts were made public on the evening of August 28 by an anonymous account and viewable for 12 hours, according to Wattpad. The posts have since been removed.
The first blog entry was headlined June 29 and signed with the name Ethan. The writer of the post blamed Covid-19 and quarantine for worsening their mental health.
Initially, this person planned a shooting inside a high school on September 8, according to the posts.
More than 35 posts were made by this same account on the blogging site. Most of the posts indicated a desire to commit violence.
One post referenced being “partially inspired” by the Columbine High School shooting.
In other posts signed with the name Ethan, several reasons were cited for the writer turning into a “ticking time bomb,” which included their family and their love life, which was detailed in a post headlined July 8.
The writer mentioned buying a shotgun and an AR-15 for the shooting, and said they hoped to kill over 40 people.
Throughout the posts, other mass shootings were also referenced.
“I immediately turned to my children and said, ‘Run!’”
Customers and employees described a chaotic scene at Safeway, saying they scrambled for safety as bullets flew.
Josh Caba told CNN affiliate KTVZ he and his four children were shopping in the store when the shots broke out.
“We started heading to the front. Then we heard I don’t know how many shots out front – six or seven. I immediately turned to my children and said, ‘Run!’ People were screaming. … it was a horrifying experience,” Caba told KTVZ.
Caba said he was worried about his wife, who stayed in the car because she wasn’t feeling well. But as he and three of his children fled through exit doors by the produce department, he found that his wife had driven to the back of the store and was “sitting in the car, saying ‘Get in the car! Get in the car!’” KTVZ reported.
The father was able to rush back into the store and find their fourth child, he told KTVZ.
An employee who identified himself only as Robert told the Central Oregon Daily News that he and other employees were working a closing shift in the deli when they heard loud gunfire.
“Me and three other employees ran into a walk-in refrigerator and closed the door and stayed there and stayed hidden until authorities arrived,” he said.
A third person was struck and was in good condition at St. Charles Medical Center, spokesperson Lisa Goodman said.
Residents in the central Oregon city were stunned by the shooting.
“I heard anywhere from five to eight shots. I thought it sounded like backfire,” Heather Thompson, who lives across the street, told Central Oregon Daily News.
“Less than a minute later, there were 10 to 20 shots, and then another 10 to 20 shots,” she said. “And by that time, I went inside and told my dad to get away from the window. And people were running out of Safeway.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify when the Wattpad posts were made public.
CNN’s Holly Yan and Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.