Hundreds of people gathered in the shade of tall ponderosa pines in a Bend park Monday night to pay their respects to two men who were killed in a grocery store shooting the night before.
A choir sang sweet songs, local religious leaders offered words of hope and mourners – some of whom narrowly escaped Sunday’s attack – laid flowers at the foot of the waterfront amphitheater. tranquil waters of Mirror Pond.
“I’m so angry that this is continuing,” Bend Councilwoman Melanie Kebler told the crowd. “I’m so angry that lives have been needlessly lost, that terror has been felt in our community… but I don’t accept that. We don’t accept it.
A community pastor, Morgan Schmidt, urged those gathered to reject the violence that had visited Bend and an ever-growing list of US cities.
“I ask us tonight to refuse to believe that this has to be normal,” Schmidt said to applause. “That’s my only request, that we refuse to believe it’s the status quo.”
Police said a 20-year-old man opened fire on the Forum shopping center on Sunday evening, an almost daily stoppage for many residents on the eastern outskirts of the city.
The shooter killed a customer, Glenn Bennett, 84, near the west entrance to the Safeway grocery store. A store employee, Donald Surrett Jr., 66, attempted to disarm the shooter inside the store before being killed.
Police said the assailant committed suicide shortly thereafter. A semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun lay near his body.
Craig Van Bruggen was among the crowd at Monday’s vigil. The 33-year-old was in the Safeway when the shooting started, talking to his wife on the phone about the shopping list. He was able to walk away unscathed and said he attributed this in part to Surrett’s bravery.
“Looks like Donald potentially slowed the shooter enough to save lives, and he’s a hero,” Van Bruggen said. “I never met him but he will always be in my heart for the rest of my life.”
Caroline Beech regularly shops at the store and lives in the same apartment complex nearby where the killer began his rampage.
“It’s right near my house,” Beech said. “We were going to this Safeway and I think Donald was the guy who put the bananas away. … It’s just important to be aware and loving and gentle. It was good to come see everyone.