A sniper who became a celebrity, Chris Kyle, was the author of the best-selling book, "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History." In a tale full of sadness and irony, he was shot and killed at a Texas gun range on Saturday.
Kyle, a retired Navy Seal had 150 kills certified during four tours of duty in Iraq between 1999 and 2009. Those were certified kills; some reports placed the number of his kills at up to 225. His longest certified lethal shot was made from a distance of 1.2 miles.
Since retiring, Kyle would occasionally take fellow veterans shooting as a type of therapy. On Saturday Kyle, 38, and a neighbor Chad Littlefield, 35, had taken another veteran, 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, there for the day in an attempt to help Routh deal with his post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
Kyle and Littlefield were both shot and killed Saturday afternoon on the gun range at the Rough Creek Lodge, not far from Glen Rose, Texas. Multiple local news agencies reported that investigators claim Routh turned his weapon on Kyle and Littlefield, killing them at point blank range, before fleeing in Kyle’s car.
Officers, including a local SWAT team, pursued Routh to a house in Lancaster, Texas. Routh again tried to flee, but his escape was halted at about 9 p.m. after a spike strip was laid across a road.
Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant told the Forth Worth Star Telegram that “The suspect has been caught and is in custody in Lancaster.” Erath County sheriff’s investigators and Texas Rangers were reportedly securing a capital murder warrant against Routh.
Kyle was married and the father of two. While in the service, he was wounded twice and was awarded two Silver Stars. five Bronze Stars with Valor and numerous other commendations.
In 2011, Mr. Kyle created the FITCO Cares Foundation, to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. Early Sunday morning, Travis Cox, director of the FITCO Cares Foundation, released the following statement:
“My heart is breaking. Our foundation, FITCO Cares, this country and most importantly, his wife Taya and their children, lost a dedicated father and husband, a lifelong patriot and an American hero.
“Chris died doing what he filled his heart with passion -– serving soldiers struggling with the fight to overcome PTSD."
The incident was not only ironic and tragic on its own, but it comes at a time when Congress continues to debate possible gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where 2 children and six adults were killed.
Among the measures in discussion is increased mental health counseling and treatment.