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A shooting in Bend, Oregon yesterday took the lives of two innocent people, followed by the suicide of the shooter.
Police and Bend city officials confirmed today that the shooting was carried out by a man named Ethan Blair Miller, aged 20. Yesterday evening around 7pm he drove to a supermarket and according to witness accounts, began shooting at people from his car in the parking lot, before going inside the building and firing at panicked customers and staff as they fled toward the rear of the store.
On the local Reddit page for the town, victims who had narrowly escaped injury praised the bravery and quick thinking of a supermarket employee who had been pushing carts in the parking lot and ran inside to warn people while under fire, allowing many to evacuate safely moments before the gunman entered. One victim was an 84-year-old shopper and another was a supermarket employee who died trying to disarm Miller. Two others suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Miller was found dead in the produce section at 7:08PM.
Police found an AR-style rifle and shotgun on Miller and an additional sawed-off shotgun, three Molotov cocktails, ammo and “digital devices” in his vehicle. Their bomb squad shut down a large area around the supermarket and apartment complex Miller lived in but found no additional explosives.
Soon after the incident, rumors of a manifesto emerged, also through the local Reddit group. Bend is a town of only 100,000 and someone near the scene recognized either the shooter or his vehicle, and provided a link to an online blog, although the post was quickly taken down or deleted by moderators.
The blog contained 56 short posts beginning in late June, after Miller made the decision to carry out a mass shooting attack. About a quarter of the entries were just song lyrics, mainly from dark industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails and KMDFM. Miller describes being filled by hate and saying that while he was solely responsible, he felt ‘the world turned [him] into a monster.’
Miller mentioned in the first post that although he believed COVID to be real, he thought a ‘Tyrannical US GOVERNMENT […] USED the problem to create Mass hysteria and panic among us (Meaning the people of AMERICA) and then forced us into isolation and loneliness for a significant period of time […] I still haven’t been able to pull myself out of that state.’
Despite this sentiment, the ‘manifesto’ was not about pushing an ideology. It was mainly about poorly articulated anger and personal grievance. After reading it several times we at LCRW do not think Miller had any serious connection to right wing groups or ideologies. We’re reporting on it here because it’s in our backyard and we hope accurate information will save people from rumors and anxiety.
Miller seemed to seethe with rage at anyone and everything – cops and people with authority most of all, but also people of all races (including white people), Christians, young people, old people, and the human race at large. He wrote that America had ‘gone to shit’ and consisted of little more than power-hungry politicians and rich people exploiting a population consisting mainly of ‘zombies’.
Unusually, he was at pains to state that he was not a white supremacist. Nor was he a misogynist or an incel, he said, deriding them as ‘losers’ and ‘pussies’ – although his misery seemed to stem in part from an unrequited love interest.
Miller had a clear idea in mind from the outset: to shoot up his old high school on the first day it opened in early September, killing as many people as possible. His motivations for killing seems to vary with his mood; to shock people out of their apathy, to make his mark on history, to vent his extreme anger, to cause a revolution that would bring about change in society by shocking people into changing their behavior. He knew his intended victims were innocent, but saw their deaths as a necessary sacrifice in service of his goal.
The roots of his overwhelming anger began with grievances against his family and continued into his poor social experiences in school, the tedium and pointlessness of work (although he described his job as quite good and expressed satisfaction with his pay), and his horror at the idea of spending decades in a society that disgusted him, and his contempt for civilization in general; a recurring theme was that humanity should return to a simpler life of animalistic combat and survival.
As he practiced with firearms and got closer to his target date, he seemed to oscillate between bleak hopelessness and a feeling of godlike superiority over all those around. He rejoiced in his willingness to commit violence and thrilled by the imaginary liberation of killing others and then escaping his own life by suicide. In between these extremes he went through the motions of work and numbed himself with alcohol, weed, and increasingly gruesome murder fantasies.
But as the days went by Miller’s rage and thirst for violence became so all-consuming that he could not wait any longer for the new school year to begin. Unable to control himself any more, he decided on Saturday to change his plans and on Sunday wrote a final, emotionally incoherent farewell, declaring variously that he was full of rage, expressing love and apologies, and that he had no emotions at all.
Then he got in his pickup, drove to a supermarket, and gave himself up to his demons.
A vigil is planned in Drake Park tonight at 6:00pm PST. A fundraiser for one of the victims can be found here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1800-273-TALK. If you have doubts or fears about calling a suicide hotline, this article from Kaiser Health News includes a list of alternative resources.
Abner Häuge contributed to this report.