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‘He’s going to be hard to replace’: Community offering support for family of Bend’s Safeway shooting hero

(Update: Police say Surrett was a La Pine resident; stores collecting donations for victims)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Sunday night's Safeway shooting on Bend's Eastside was a tragedy in which three people died, including the gunman. But the killing of a store employee, hailed as a hero for trying to disarm the shooter, is prompting a strong, supportive response from the community.

Bend Police said Tuesday that instead of fleeing, Donald Surrett Jr., 66, of La Pine (police corrected his hometown Wednesday) hid behind a produce cart, waiting for the gunman. He then attacked him with a produce knife. That's when the gunman killed Surrett, then himself.

Surrett was shot and killed in the rear of the store, in the produce section, as the gunman attacked. He is being called a hero for trying to wrestle the gun away and likely preventing more bloodshed.

 Those who knew him describe him as organized, private and active in his community in La Pine. He was the treasurer of the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans.

Robert Landers, a commander for the DAV, said Tuesday, "He'd always tell you the truth. You might not like it. but he would tell you the truth -- that's a rare quality to find. I'm not surprised that he stood up and tried to take on the gunman. I am surprised he's dead."

DAV member Ken Hauge said, "I have so many things to say about Don. He was very sociable and a very interesting person to talk to. He always had an answer for everything."  

Robert Cusick, a senior vice commander for the DAV added: "He's going to be hard to replace." 

A GoFundMe page, created by sister-in-law Jerilynn Morra, said Surrett was a veteran, "and his instincts kicked in, trying to save others. He was shot and killed trying to subdue the young gunman. Please send prayers, too."

The GoFundMe page has quickly surpassed, by far, the $8,000 goal set to help Surrett's wife, Jacky, with funeral and living expenses. There had been nearly 900 donations by midday Tuesday, with more than $42,000 raised -- by evening, it was close to $60,000 from more than 1,200 people.

And the effort to help those affected by the shooting is broader than Central Oregon. The 140 Safeway and Albertsons stores in Oregon and southern Washington have begun collecting donations at checkout stands through Sept. 5 for “the victims of the Bend tragedy.”

Surrett's ex-wife, Debora Jean Surrett, told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday that while she was totally surprised that her former husband, a disabled veteran, had passed -- especially the way it happened -- she could see it, as he was a combat engineer.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts
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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

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