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NARSOL honors Donald Surrett, Jr., a registrant and a hero

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 Rozek

Written by 

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.

26 Thoughts to “NARSOL honors Donald Surrett, Jr., a registrant and a hero”

  1. AvatarBrian Wittman

    So sad when all America can see us the past and that we can never do anything good. Very sad indeed. I thought we were a country of 2d chances but thT is a lie. And that is because the government has made and perpetuated a lie that once a con always a con. Worse they perpetuate once an SO always an SO.

  2. AvatarThe Criminalized Man

    I’m glad to read that facts still matter to the local constabulary. Kudos to DAV and VFW too. But the press is the press – if it bleeds, it leads. Same as it ever was.

  3. AvatarCherokeeJack

    It seems one of us (Registered citizens) could jump in front of a bullet and save the President of the United States and still not be treated fairly. One of three scenarios would take place. #1 They would state the registered person was later arrested for being at a rally without permission. #2 Focus mainly on the registered persons past and not on the heroism. #3 Not mention the person at all and credit the saving to a Secret service employee and deny the registered person had anything to do with saving the president.

    I have been a witness to several crimes and every time I have gone to court as a states witness, I am always excused and my testimony is thrown out due to being a felon, a Sex offender at that (According to the prosecutor). Now I do not get involved at all other than calling 9-11 to get someone help but will not further get involved in anything unless of course someone’s life depends on it.

    I said all this not to take away from the man in the article, but to mirror that many of us have experienced similar, minus the being killed part. And to note, imagine if he HAD lived. They raked him through the coals after dying, imagine the abuse he and his family would have gotten if he had lived? Getting fired from his job because of bad publicity, news parked outside his house, more attention to him and his family bringing vigilantes to their home and even possibly being sued by the family of the attacker.

    I once got a traffic ticket and fought it in court without a lawyer (I have 2 years of criminal law). The first thing the judge said in front of a packed court room (Of others who were there to fight their cases) was “Oh I see you are a sex offender”. Believe it or not I said to the judge that driving while being registered is not an offense and that was I believe the only reason the officer gave me a ticket.
    I also pointed out the officer did not show up for court and if his honor liked, we could reschedule my case and require the officer to come and testify. My ticket was tossed, but not without the walk of shame as I left with everyone staring at “The sex offender” leaving the court room. You would have thought a 3 headed monster was in the room.
    My Point of relevance is, the same as this man above, the first thing the judge brought up was the very unrelated fact that I am on the registry as a sex offender.

    1. AvatarVince

      Similar situation, friend (RSO) was in a car accident. First thing dispatch relayed to the officer on site was he was a RSO. This had absolutely nothing to do with an auto accident between two vehicles. Seems this info was just relayed to create bias to try to further persecute the RSO involved in the accident.

    2. AvatarBob

      A registrant could run into a burning house and save a child and die from his burns and the news media and the public would still run him down. There will never be forgiveness for any of us.

  4. AvatarVince

    It’s truly sad that sex offenders just have no redemption in the public eye. The sex offence registry truly just needs to be abolished so that people can move on with their lives and not be forever condemned as the bad guy/girl. Just because most people have a lapse in their judgement or went through a truly rough patch in their life and made a mistake or two, doesn’t mean they should forever be shunned from society. The media probably made Mr. Surrett out to be worse than the man who entered the Safeway store and began taking lives as that sex offeners are usually viewed as the worst criminals God ever made. I don’t recall the Ten Commandments stating anything about sex crimes, but I do remember Thou Shall Not Kill and that being the worst of all sins. People need to realize that sex offenders are still human beings and still have emotions, hopes, dreams and desires to improve themselves. Unfortunately, with society’s view of sex offenders, those emotions, hopes, dreams and desires just get trampled by the public because the public wants no redemption for those types of crimes. It’s truly unfair that someone who actually takes another’s life is not looked down upon as poorly as someone who is on the registry for any reason that doesn’t include murder. Taking a life should ALWAYS be the worst crime, because there’s no coming back from death.

    1. AvatarCherokeeJack

      Every single one of us can relate a story of ways we have been treated badly, passed over for a job or promotion, been harassed, been a victim of a crime etc. Not so much related to our crime or past but 100% due to the registry and the offshoot of registry known as next door that can spread false rumors about us without us being allowed on there. Add to that even our families who have done nothing wrong are banned if they live in the same household.
      But yeah, nothing to see here folks, its not punishment according to the powers that be.
      Less we forget, many of us have charges that predate the registries and were applied retroactively without any way to challenge them.

    2. AvatarVince

      That’s not to mention how sex offence laws trump civil rights laws. Once a person is put on the registry, they lose quite a few civil rights. It’s truly appalling that these laws are written in such a manner. The entire system really needs to be abolished. Sensible laws will never be enacted and they will never truly tier level of sex offenses online. Only distinction there is (which most people don’t even recognize) is Offender and Predator. These are unfair and unjust laws that need serious revisions and not published to the general public. In England, if you want to know where sex offenders live, one must go to their local police station and formally request a list (which will only be very localized to their address). One will have to submit a copy of their ID and fill out various paperwork before being given a list of offenders in their immediate area. This can cut down vigilantes from attacking or harming RSO’s. If a RSO is attacked, they look to who requested information that included that particular offender and question them or interrogate them if probable cause is evident. Some countries (like Mexico) don’t even have a registry. Personally I don’t believe registries work at all. They only undermine the system and the offender while forever scarring the offenders and severely hindering any hopes of reintegration to society.

  5. AvatarJim from Indy

    He was a courageous hero that sacrificed his life to save others. That is the story and it’s a great story. You said the local police department acknowledged the heroic sacrifice and disregarded his registry status…. I wonder if the Sheriff would have made the same acknowledgment or was he the one that fed the registry status to the local news. Remember the registry serve as a big part of most elected sheriff’s campaign program. Sadly, my sometimes negativity leads me to think that if he was NOT the hero that stopped the killing, and was just a victim, the media and Sheriff would still focus on his sex offender status. How often do we see that focus in all news reports.

  6. AvatarA Mistake They Made

    Way to go Donald you showed them that we are not all bad! Hopefully one day they will wonder how many of us are good, and refuse to continue to punish us for past wrongs.

  7. AvatarJerry

    Funny how the media tried to use his past to make him look bad. I read the story and the comments on one news outlet website. Funny how it backfired. Everyone was praising this man’s actions.

  8. AvatarSteven Richards

    Awesome article Sandy, thanks so much for continuing to share these important stories!

    To my American friend, Hero DONALD SURRETT, JR., thank you for your service and for continuing to be a real person after everything you’ve been through. I must say that an American Hero always inspires me, but for an American human that’s been through these tough times, of which I share, it is overwhelmingly positive that you’re able to function normally and overcome the burdens that try to hold you back. Courage, my friend, and love to you and your family for the emotional day you’ve given me. Thanks is way too small of a word, but it’s all I can say although doesn’t relate the feelings I have right now. I’m with you, and hope we can meet some day.

    I am sharing this with everyone I know, and saving it for daily inspiration. American Press needs to see this.

  9. Avatarlinda shedlock

    What this man did in 1994 does NOT define who he is as person ! The lives that were saved due to his bravery and fast thinking do !I thank Donald for his service to the country I live in and for the most part am still free because of men and woman like him ! Journalist only try to sell news so of course they do not report the real and truthful story ! Thank you Donald for continuing to try and preserve our freedom and safety !

  10. AvatarWilliam Hart

    Thank you Sandy.
    I could hardly read the first part for the water in my eyes. I had difficulty finishing the article for the smoke coming out of my ears.
    What do we have to do to prove ourselves? This man gave the ultimate sacrifice. No greater gift can be given than to sacrifice one’s own life for others.
    He makes me proud to be on the registry. I am in good company. I don’t say that flagrantly, nor do I claim to be as good a man as Mr. Surrett.

  11. AvatarEd

    I’ve always said that at least 80% of America is not as smart as it should be. That explains most of our problems. It seems like these people are finally getting it here, saying, “you mean that the tens of millions of Americans who have committed sex offenses (the reql numbers, because we know the vast majority are friends and family who never get on the registry) aren’t actually alien robots planted on Earth for the sole purpose of sprouting up and committing sex offenses against your stranger children? You mean these are actually real, breathing, military-serving human beings who actually have lives and actually do other productive things other than to get up in the morning and try to molest your children on the way to school from a white van? You don’t say!

  12. AvatarWeArethePeople

    Don you were a good man before and after the fact. We all make mistakes and we all have to live with what we have done. So God gave his only begotten son so we will be forgiven. I forgive you and what you did, that day you did so much more for so many people so that made you so much better then most. I will see you in Heaven!

  13. AvatarJim

    There shouldn’t be things like this to discuss in the first place. Thats life, in case you haven’t noticed. Life is cruel and uncaring. You can’t reason with evil. Evil wants what it wants and won’t stop until it has won, or you kill it. To kill it, is to be Meaner than evil. We need to learn how to be meaner than the evil placed upon us. But still have love for your family and be able to enjoy a sunrise.

  14. AvatarJim

    We have no future, NONE, if we don’t find a way to take our future back. Until then we have no life, and you know how that has ended for people that have been deemed as worthless by the government. There are 2 roads in life. One is where we are winning and learning. The other is where we are losing all the way to our grave. We better choose quickly, or life will choose it for us.

  15. AvatarFormer Offender

    While I am sad that Mr. Surrett passed due to his injuries, the fact that he was able to save lives makes him a hero. He could have got down on the floor or hid, but he choose not to. Instead he put his life on the line to provide help to others. He was a selfless individual. There have been some amazing stories of redemption, of people who have made mistakes in the past, but have gone on to be productive members of society. It is these examples that we need to let shine when the old worn out troupes are brought out against sex offenders.

    The tide against these stupid senseless laws must change. The state and federal government need to stop passing laws that punish people AFTER their time has been served. We need to urge lawmakers to repeal these laws and work on better treatment and programs for post-release rather than the lock’em up and throw away the key approach.

    1. AvatarCherokeeJack

      TO Former Offender

      Thank you so much for pointing that out “Former” offender. Even on this stories comments, some are still calling themselves sex offenders. Is someone who had a DUI 20 years ago and gave up drinking still an alcoholic? I do not think so. If you label yourself for life (Unless you are still doing wrong) why?

      My crime is pushing 30 years ago now so why again am I a sex offender? Does someone who robbed a store at age 18 still a robber when they turn 50 and have never again committed a crime? Well I know when someone in sports retires, they do not call them a football player, they call them a retired player. Why, because they are “No longer playing”.

  16. AvatarMove to another country a.s.a.p.

    Agreeing with what everyone that has posted here
    & another great article by Sandy.
    Not going to bore you with my experience living as a S.O. in the so-called “land of the free and the brave” (not).
    Legally moving out of here,
    have to share this,
    my life in another country has allowed me to be the good person I am.
    That’s all I got to comment.

    1. AvatarCherokeeJack

      Good for you
      My people have lived on this land called America for 1000s of years and were pushed into “Camps” and rounded up and sometimes even shot. I was born here, as were many generations of my family (Although I have mixed blood) so I am not going anywhere. I will stay and fight.

  17. Avatarw

    There are thousands of stories every day, all the time, where maybe a few other “unsung heroes” don’t get their due credit. But there will also be the few that do. Don’t forget who owns and runs the media…almost as if the story was picked with these details in particular…

    The tragedy is not that he committed a heroic act. The tragedy is that he died BEFORE ever seeing his registration status change. Tell this gentleman that he would die an rso in the public’s eyes and see how he would’ve responded to knowing that fate. And if it was a red or blue or even yellow state do you think he cared for either? THE “state” did this to him. The state made him a target with his rso status and the state put an armed man to cross paths with him in a conflict where the outcome was thus.

    Something fishy here…George Floyd II anyone? RSOLM!

  18. AvatarTim in WI

    I wonder where he’d been working if he wasn’t on the registry. I wonder if the word hero is overvalued and over used. Some people run from a fire, a few run towards them, but most do nothing. We know which kinda man Don was. Not unusual for a trained man. There are many.

  19. AvatarMike

    Hello, first I want to thank Donald for jumping into action when the other people in the store did nothing to stop the shooter. They either hid or run out of the store screaming and The hero Donald stood face to face with the shooter, not even some law enforcement would have done what Donald did. Like I’ve said before, the only way to show the Supreme Court, legislature and all involved with lawmaking and put them on the registry for one year and all there personal info and picture on the sex offender registry and must follow all laws pertaining to for one year, then tell us if it’s a punishment or not. Yet they made the sex offender registry and the laws on sex offenders without any evidence plus the US Government knew that sex offender registry recidivism rate is below 5% and yet one year after that study, they enacted the sex offender registry anyways ignoring the evidence the government found, so tell me what is really going on.

  20. AvatarJerry P

    It’s been years ago, I remember a man had died in an automobile accident in Eastern North Carolina and the news also HAD TO MENTION he was also a sex offender… The man had died in an auto accident….

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