BEND, OR – On a Sunday evening in August, 20-year-old Ethan Miller walked out of his apartment in the city of Bend, Oregon, armed with an AR-15 style rifle, a shotgun, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Five minutes later he was inside the Safeway supermarket across the street, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Before taking his own life inside the supermarket, Miller shot a shopper at close range. He also killed a store employee, Donald Surrett Jr., an army veteran who tried to disarm the gunman.
Details of those five minutes of terror in the shopping center were released last week by the Bend Police Department. Utilizing angles from security and ring cameras, a video timeline shows Miller leaving his apartment until the moment he ends the rampage.
A 398-page police document of the incident includes eye-witness interviews of the attack and reports from responding officers. The file also includes testimonies from Miller’s relatives and acquaintances, most of them expressing shock that a person they knew would attempt a mass shooting.
All up, the released information recounts in sometimes graphic detail what occurred in the Forum Shopping Center on August 28, a collection of information local police say was issued to satisfy the dozens of public records requests made after the shooting.
The police video begins with footage from a Ring doorbell camera, showing Miller armed, dressed in black, and walking outside his residence, the Fox Hollow Apartments. Residents of the complex later told police they heard gunshots. The 911 calls start coming in at 7:04 p.m.
Less than a minute later, a surveillance camera captures Miller walking across a parking lot toward the Forum Shopping Center, home to an Old Navy store, a Costco, a Safeway, and a Big Lots, among other businesses.
More shots were fired at 7:05 p.m. in the parking lot, as described by witnesses. At least one driver is injured when the gunman shoots his car, sending shrapnel flying.
Video from inside the Big Lots store shows shoppers ducking in a panic. Witnesses say the shooter was firing his rifle at cars in the parking lot. At 7:06 p.m. the glass doors of Big Lots are blown in from gunfire and a moment later the shooter is seen through the window calmly walking past, rifle in hand.
The manager on duty at Big Lots stated that he heard the gunman yelling at people as he walked past, something to the effect of “You better run you m—-f—--s!”
At that moment, according to police interviews, a shopper named Geoff Wagner was driving in the parking lot in his SUV. Wagner saw the shooter firing at the buildings and cars and wanted to run the shooter over but did not.
The police report also contained receipts that showed Miller had purchased a weapon and ammunition from the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Bend. Two of the receipts were dated from July. One was from August 27, the day before the attack took place.
Next Big Lots is Safeway and the video switches to a view from inside the grocery store. Store workers and shoppers appear panicked, unsure of where to go as they look out the window at the commotion outside. The gunman then approaches the store entrance, causing customers and store workers to flee. It’s 7:07 when the shooter enters the Safeway, his former place of work.
Glenn Bennett, an 84-year-old shopper, and an army vet, walks into the frame just as the gunman enters the store. The gunman opens fire on Bennett, shooting him in the right arm, hip, and thigh. Bennett was conscious when police arrived to help him. They applied a tourniquet before medical staff arrived. He is taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where staff try to save him but are unsuccessful.
Bennett would later be described by friends and relatives as a kind person who had served the U.S. as a medic in the Korean War. He enjoyed walks around Bend and was known for chatting with store workers at a convenience store near his home. During the holidays he enjoyed buying bags of groceries for local food drives, the Bend Bulletin reported.
The shooter would have had no knowledge of the person he had just killed, and carried on through the store. Surveillance video then shows the gunman calmly walking past the registers and then turning into the aisle containing chips and snacks.
The aisle is clear of people but the gunman fires off a few rounds into the food products. He is wearing a tactical vest and a black hat. He fumbles a bit with the shotgun and continues deeper into the store.
The video at this point only shows the gunman walking through the aisles but police reports describe what is happening elsewhere in the store. The smell of gunpowder is thick in the air and gunshots echo through the aisles. Many customers have fled outside but a few people are still in the store, hiding in bathrooms or coolers.
Gary Hansen, a store worker who usually works the dairy section, said when the shooting started he grabbed a wine bottle to use as a weapon and prepared to defend himself. He managed to slip out through a back door. Workers from the meat department also escaped, but not before helping customers exit the building.
Bystander Brett Smith was outside the store locking his bike when he heard gunshots. He ran into the store and made his way to a cooler behind the deli where he waited with three others. Smith held pepper spray in one hand in case the gunman opened the door.
Another customer, Molly Taroli, was inside the store in the frozen food section with her husband Jason Taroli. When the shooting began Jason moved to the front of the store to get a better look, heard more shots, and ordered his wife to the back of the store.
Molly retrieved a 380 semi-automatic pistol from her purse and held it ready as she stood at the rear loading dock. Jason went out the front, retrieved a gun from his pickup, and returned to the store. He helped one customer out of the store but did not reenter because police had arrived on the scene.
A delivery driver named Bill Crumrine was behind the store when he saw people fleeing out of an emergency exit. “The fear on the people’s faces who were running out of the emergency exit was unbelievable,” he later told police. At that moment Crumrine also witnessed police arriving on the scene on foot, he said they were in a “full sprint” headed to the backdoor of the store, rifles in hand.
“It was an overwhelming amount of force and amazing to see,” Crumrine told police.
Meanwhile, back in the store, Miller had reached the meat department. The video changes its angle and a man, later identified as Richard Johnson, is shown falling to the ground behind a cooler.
The shooter spots Johnson and approaches him. The video has no sound but it's clear there is an exchange of words. Johnson later told police what was said. The gunman asked him if he was a Christian, and Johnson replied “I am.” The gunman asked, “why?” Johnson said, “I have no idea but I am.”
The gunman then points his rifle away from the man, shoots the ground, and walks away. He then begins blasting the glass of the meat department with his shotgun. The exchange between the two men lasted less than 10 seconds.
The gunman is then seen walking through the back of the store with Johnson still lying on the ground behind him.
Another camera angle is shown and now Surrett, the 66-year-old army veteran, can be seen crouching behind a small produce cart. He is squatting low between displays of melons and snacks, waiting for the shooter to approach.
At 7:08 p.m., just as the shooter passes him, Surrett emerges from his position and lunges forward with a knife in his hand. Surrett and the gunman are briefly blacked out and the encounter only lasts a few seconds. But police reports explain that Surrett is unable to grab onto the gunman, instead falling to the ground and covering his head with his arms. He is shot twice in the back of the head.
It was a tragic end for the mild-mannered produce clerk now considered a hero for his attempt to stop the gunman who entered his store. He had ample time to flee the building but instead stayed put, in his produce area, waiting for a chance to take down the shooter.
Perhaps, the 26 years he spent in the military as a combat engineer had prepared him for the moment. He had gotten into the military at a young age, enlisting out of high school. His experiences also included working for the U.S. Forest Service at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
He was remembered fondly by coworkers, who recalled that Surrett would regularly buy stargazer lilies to take home to his wife, according to the Bend Bulletin.
The rifle had fallen to the ground in the scuffle and the shooter left it there, a few feet away from Surrett. Shotgun in hand he then walks another 24 feet into the produce area and sits down.
Another video angle comes into view, showing the produce area and the front door simultaneously. It’s at that moment that two police officers are seen walking into the store, their guns drawn. The time is still 7:08 p.m.
The shooter then turned the gun on himself. The sound of the shotgun blast causes the two police officers to change direction and move toward the produce area where they find both Surrett and the gunman dead. At 5:25 p.m. the following day, funeral home staff arrive to take both bodies away – Surrett through the front door and the gunman from the loading dock in the back.
In the days after the incident, police contacted the family of the shooter. One relative said the gunman had “anger problems” but he believed that part of him was getting under control. Some reports said the shooter had been bullied in middle school and high school. Others said he had bullied others and was quick to pick fights. Boxing, shooting guns and MMA fighting were hobbies.
There was little indication that the incident was coming, but a friend of the gunman said he had received what amounted to a suicide note by text just prior to the attack. By the time the friend reached the Fox Hollow apartments to help it was too late.
A high school friend told police he had gone shooting with the gunman and there were times when he had denounced mass shootings because they “ruined” the gun community. He said he never expected him to go on a shooting rampage.
But shortly after the incident, online posts written by the gunman paint a different picture, revealing his suicidal thoughts and desire to become a school shooter. Because school was not yet in session, and he simply couldn’t wait any longer, he went to the shopping center for his final act.
The online messages revealed relationship problems and an inability to get along with others. He also blamed COVID for keeping him isolated and said society had turned against him, forcing him to react violently.
There was no indication that the gunman sought support or treatment that could have saved him and prevented the attack. Somehow, the shooter was able to keep these thoughts to himself – no one around him, not his friends or family, suspected how he planned to end his life.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Support is also available from the Crisis Text Line, a texting service for emotional crisis support. Text HELLO to 741741, it’s free, available 24/7 and confidential.
You can watch a report from KTVZ News below:
Bend police release Bend Safeway shooting footage in compliance with public records law youtu.be