Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL and author of the book "American Sniper" poses in Midlothian, Texas, April 6, 2012. (Right) Eddie Ray Routh has been charged with killing Chris Kyle.
STEPHENVILLE, Texas (AP) - A 25-year-old Iraq war
veteran charged with murdering former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper"
author Chris Kyle and his friend turned his semi-automatic handgun onto
the pair while they were at a Texas shooting range, authorities said
Eddie Ray Routh of Lancaster was arraigned early
Sunday on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Kyle, 38, and
Chad Littlefield, 35, at the shooting range about 50 miles southwest of
Capt. Jason Upshaw with the Erath County Sheriff's
Office said Routh used a semi-automatic handgun, which authorities later
found at his home. Upshaw declined to give any more details about the
type of gun used.
Routh has not made any comments indicating what his
motive may have been, Upshaw said. Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Routh was
unemployed and "may have been suffering from some type of mental illness
from being in the military himself," but he didn't know if Routh was on
"I don't know that we'll ever know. He's the only one that knows that," Upshaw said.
The U.S. military confirmed Sunday that Routh was a
corporal in the Marines from June 2006 to January 2010. He was deployed
to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010. His current duty status is listed as
Routh is being held on $3 million bond. Authorities did not know whether Routh had a lawyer yet.
Bryant said the trio went to the shooting range
around 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Someone else came across the bodies of Kyle
and Littlefield around 5 p.m. and called 911.
Upshaw said autopsies were still pending and he
could not say how many times the men were shot or where on their bodies
they were hit.
After the shootings, Routh left the shooting range
in Kyle's black pickup truck, Bryant said, first going to his sister's
home in Midlothian, where he told her and her husband what he had done.
The couple called local police.
Routh arrived at his home in Lancaster, about 17
miles southeast of Dallas, at about 8 p.m. Police arrested him after a
brief pursuit and took him to the Lancaster Police Department.
Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped
found, told the Associated Press on Sunday that Kyle and Littlefield
had taken Routh to the range. Littlefield was Kyle's neighbor and
"workout buddy," Cox said.
"What I know is Chris and a gentleman - great guy, I
knew him well, Chad Littlefield - took a veteran out shooting who was
struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you
know, give him a helping hand and he turned the gun on both of them,
killing them," Cox said.
A knock on the door at Routh's last known address
went unanswered Sunday. A for-sale sign was in front of the small,
Kyle, a decorated veteran, wrote the best-selling
book, "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in
U.S. Military History," detailing his 150-plus kills of insurgents from
1999 to 2009. Kyle said in his book that Iraqi insurgents had put a
bounty on his head. According to promotional information from book
publisher William Morrow, Kyle deployed to Iraq four times.
Kyle's nonprofit, FITCO Cares, provides at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.
"Chris was literally the type of guy if you were a
veteran and needed help he'd help you," Cox said. "And from my
understanding that's what happened here. I don't know how he came in
contact with this gentleman, but I do know that it was not through the
Cox described Littlefield as a gentle, kind-hearted
man who often called or emailed him with ideas for events or
fundraisers to help veterans.
"It was just two great guys with Chad and Chris
trying to help out a veteran in need and making time out of their day to
help him. And to give him a hand. And unfortunately this thing
happened," Cox said.
Lt. Cmdr. Rorke Denver, who served with Kyle on SEAL Team 3 in Iraq in 2006, called Kyle a champion of the modern battlefield.
"Everybody was aware in 2006 that something special
or something unique with his skill set was developing and starting to
grow and then it just carried on until he hung up his guns, at least in
an active military capacity, and moved on," Denver said. His book, "Damn
Few," about training SEALs, will be released this month.
Denver wasn't surprised that Kyle apparently used a shooting range to help someone with PTSD.
"For us, for warriors, that's a skill set that has
become very familiar, very comfortable for us," said Denver, a
lieutenant commander in a reserve SEAL team. "So I actually see it as
kind of a perfect use of Chris' unique skill set and expertise of which
he has very few peers."
Craft International, Kyle's security training
company, had scheduled a $2,950-per-person civilian training event at
Rough Creek Lodge called the "Rough Creek Shoot Out!" for March 1-3. The
price included lodging, meals and shooting instruction. Kyle was
scheduled to teach the first class, called "precision rifle."
Kyle is survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children, Cox said.
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