By Sandy . . . On August 28 a man went to an Oregon shopping center armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun; more weapons and bombs were found in his automobile. Before he was stopped, he had wounded two and killed two. The first man killed was a customer in the Safeway store where the deranged killer opened fire. The second man was an employee, and he is credited with stopping the gunman and almost without question preventing additional deaths.
Donald Surrett, Jr. was an employee of the Safeway store for five years and manager of the produce department. He was a veteran, having served his nation for 26 years as a member of the United States Army. He worked in the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for six years.
He was a beloved husband, a church member, and a brave American.
He was also one of almost a million Americans whose name is found on a state sexual offense registry; his conviction was in 1994.
When Donald went to work on the 28th of August, he could not have imagined that his military training and his personal code of courage and service would be called upon to the ultimate degree before the day ended. As the killer walked through the store with his weapons, Donald hid out of sight until the man drew equal with him, and he then attacked him with his produce knife. Killing Donald Surrett was the last thing the gunman did other than turning his gun on himself and taking his own life.
Some media outlets, in “yellow” journalism’s best tradition, made much more of the sexual crime conviction and the “sex offender” designation and registration than they did of Donald’s heroism and bravery in the face of a crisis which few of us — or them — will ever have to face. They almost grudgingly acknowledge that he has committed no crimes since the one that placed him on the registry, yet they speak of his being a “sex offender” as though that distant offense had occurred yesterday and that was all he had ever done.
Honor and respect for Donald Surrett, Jr. and his courageous act are, thankfully, also forthcoming. A spokesperson for the local police department said, “Mr. Surrett’s background does not change the fact that in this instance, when faced with great peril, he acted heroically in attacking and attempting to disarm an active shooter . . .” According to local Oregon media, the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars are planning a plaque honoring him. Additionally, the Forest Service posted this online honorarium. And NARSOL’s affiliated organization in Florida, FAC, wrote this moving tribute to Donald.
NARSOL too honors Donald Surrett, Jr. We honor his bravery and action in the face of certain danger. We honor his service of 26 years to his country. But equally, we honor his commitment to living a life of decency and respect for the past 28 years and, most especially, for sacrificing his life for the safety of others.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.