Chris Kyle, legendary Navy SEAL sniper and author of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, has been shot dead along with his friend at a Texas gun range.
The shooting occurred Saturday afternoon at the luxurious Rough Creek Lodge, west of Glen Rose in Central Texas, where Kyle, 39, and his buddy Chad Littlefield, 35, were allegedly shot in the back by a former Marine named Eddie Ray Routh.
Routh, a 25-year-old resident of Lancaster, Texas, allegedly murdered the two victims around 3:30 p.m. and fled to his home, some 70 miles from the murder scene.
Routh is charged with capital murder and is being held on $3 million bond.
Here’s what you should know about Kyle, an American hero, and his tragic demise.
1. Kyle Was the Deadliest U.S. Military Sniper in History
Deployed to Iraq four times, Kyle is credited with the certified killing of more than 150 insurgents from 1999 to 2009 — but it’s estimated that he may have killed as many as 255. (Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, a legend in Vietnam whom Kyle revered as “the best sniper in the world,” had 93 confirmed kills.) He killed 40 insurgents in the second battle of Fallujah alone, and his most famous kill came at the insane distance of 1.2 miles — picking off an insurgent aiming a rocket launcher at an Army convoy. Kyle was such a legendary executioner of insurgents that they put an $80,000 bounty on his head and called him al-Shaitan Ramad, “the Devil of Ramadi.”
2. He Was a Highly Decorated Navy SEAL
As a member of SEAL Team 3, Kyle’s awards include two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
3. He Was a Best-Selling Author
Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper, reached the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction. He told the Times:
The big common thing right now is people saying: ‘I haven’t read a book since I had to. And yours is the first that I’ve read.’
4. Kyle Was Trying to Help His Killer Deal with PTSD
Travis Cox, director of FITCO Cares, a nonprofit organization for wounded and troubled veterans that Kyle helped found, told the AP that Kyle and Littlefield were trying to help Routh, a former Marine, recover from the ravages of war:
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. … 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.
5. There is No Known Motive for the Killing
Despite his troubled state of mind, there is no indication of a specific motive for Routh’s alleged murder of Kyle and Littlefield.
6. Routh Had a Recent DWI
The alleged killer reportedly had an arrest for driving while intoxicated in January 2012.
7. Kyle Had a Family
The slain sniper leaves a wife, Taya, and two children.
8. At First, Kyle Was Rejected from the Navy
Amazingly, the greatest sniper in history was denied entry to the Navy. When he tried to join in 1996, the physical exam revealed pins in his arms from an old rodeo injury. It wasn’t until three years later that the Navy recruited Kyle. The rest is history.
9. Kyle Founded A Military Training Firm
After his military career, Kyle became the founder and president of Craft International, a firm providing military-style training to security personnel and law enforcement. Above is a promo.
10. His Nickname Was “Ninja Smoke”
One of the reasons Kyle could kill so many targets is that he saw the most targets. According to a book review on The Shooter’s Log:
Kyle’s nickname was “Ninja Smoke” because when paperwork or administrative duties came up, poof he would disappear and stick someone else with doing the boring stuff. … His greatest skill was for being in the right place at the right time. He saw more targets that met the rules of engagement than anyone else, so he shot more targets than anyone else did.