Something happened that disturbed me deeply. Last week, 20 year old Ethan Blair Miller, 20, carrying an AR-15 and a shotgun, walked into a Safeway grocery store in Bend, Oregon and began shooting. On his way into the store he killed an 84 year old man, and just continued spraying bullets as he walked through the doors. This could have been another mass shooting with a dozen people killed, if not for the courageous act of a 66 year old Safeway employee who jumped into action and attacked the shooter with a produce knife, saving the lives of countless shoppers. Unfortunately the brave man who put his life on the line to save others lost his life in doing so.
Donald Surret, Jr. was one of two people killed before the shooter turned the gun on himself. He was a 20 year veteran of the Army. On the US Department of Agriculture website, where Don worked for the Forestry service for 6 years, they posted the following tribute to Don:
He was known for his kind heart, his love of the job, his attention to uniform, his dedication to care of his wife, his connection with church and the Band of Brothers, and his diligence with visitor compliance. When Don saw something that was out of line, he did not hesitate to act, no matter how large or small the transgression.
I know Don was a proud Army veteran and I believe we will hear more of his story as he is now thrust into the national spotlight, both mourned and justly celebrated as the heroic figure directly responsible for preventing further senseless murder of innocent citizens and Safeway team members.
Donald Ray Surrett Jr. did not hesitate to act and is credited with engaging the gunman and giving coworkers and customers time to flee for safety. He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others.
All this is tragic and disturbing but it’s not the focus of this post. What’s disturbing me is the following:
For the past week news outlets have been recognizing that Don was a hero. They praised his bravery, his service to his country and his community. There was even talk about a suitable memorial. Until… someone dug into his past and discovered that Don was convicted of a sex offense 30 years ago.
Now people are calling into question the memorial or whether Don should be considered a Hero. A local newspaper even reached out to the Safeway store in which he worked to ask how he was able to be employed there.
It’s disgusting! Irrespective of what he did thirty-plus years ago, it’s clear that the man paid his debt to society and spent decades redeeming himself. No greater proof of his current benevolent character is the fact that he confronted an armed gunman to save people’s lives, and now you want to crap on his benefaction because of something he did 30 years ago? Is that really what you want? What lesson can be learned from this?
I’ll tell you… You’re going to shame Safeway over their hiring choice when, in fact, this was the best employee they ever had! What’s more important, an employee who can stack cans of tuna or an employee who will give his own life to protect your customers? Businesses should scramble to hire more employees like Don because the pool of over-qualified candidates on the registry who are so desperate for a menial job that they will do anything for it is abundant.
Here’s the other outcome of besmirching Don’s legacy. You are conditioning the nearly one million people on the registry in this country to not get involved. It’s not worth it! See a kid on the sidewalk having a seizure, cross the street. That’s what we’re conditioned to do because with this label, even the best deed or the greatest sacrifice one can make will never overcome the stigma. It’s time to end this label.
Don Surrett was no threat to public safety. Don Surrett WAS public safety.