A FORMER US Navy Seal known as the deadliest marksman in American history has been shot dead by an ex-Marine whom he had been helping as part of his charitable work supporting traumatised combat veterans.
Chris Kyle, author of the best-selling 2012 autobiography American Sniper, was killed along with a friend at the gun range of a luxury Texas lodge, where they had taken Eddie Ray Routh, 25, on an outing to assist his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Routh, a former Marine who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was caught following a pursuit by Texas Rangers law enforcement officers, who were alerted when resort staff discovered the two bodies at the gun range on Saturday afternoon. Routh has been arraigned on two capital murder charges.
“Chris died doing what filled his heart with passion – serving soldiers struggling with the fight to overcome PTSD. His service, life and premature death will never be in vain,” said Travis Cox, a close friend and director of the FITCO Cares Foundation that Mr Kyle, 38, established after leaving the military in 2009.
As a member of the US Navy’s elite Seal Team 3, Mr Kyle served in every major battle of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led coalition effort that toppled Saddam Hussein and helped the country move towards self-governance.
The son of a deacon and a Sunday school teacher, he got his first gun at the age of eight to hunt pheasants and deer. He went on to become the US military’s most proficient sharpshooter. His honours included two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valour.
In his book, whose veracity was certified by the US defence department, he revealed that he had made 160 confirmed kills while providing protection for fellow troops involved in the counter-insurgency in Iraq.
His accuracy – he could hit targets from a distance of up to 1.2 miles – earned him the nickname “The Legend” among fellow commandos, and “al-Shaitan Ramad” (“the Devil of Ramadi”) among insurgents, who placed an $80,000 bounty on his head.
Following his final combat tour, he became chief instructor for training naval special warfare sniper and counter-sniper teams, and wrote the first manual for Seal marksmen, the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine.
He left the Marines in 2009 and founded Craft International, a security firm, and then the FITCO Cares Foundation in 2011 – a cause with which he empathised after suffering difficulties adjusting to civilian life.
On Saturday, he and a friend, Chris Littlefield, 35, took Routh to the shooting range at Rough Creek Lodge, a country resort 70 miles from Dallas. Mr Kyle often took veterans with PTSD to gun ranges to bond with them over a common interest, said Mr Cox.
He said. “It was just two great guys trying to help out a veteran in need … and unfortunately, this thing happened.”
During interviews last year to promote his book, Mr Kyle said the number of deaths attributed to him was not a figure that he had wanted to reveal, but one that he made public at the behest of his publisher.
“I feel pretty good, because
I am not just killing someone,
I am also saving people,” he said in a newspaper interview in January last year. “What keeps me up at night is not the people I have killed, it is the people
I wasn’t able to save.”
He wrote in his book: “I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job … The number is not important to me. I only wish that I could have killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.”