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April 17, 2014

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Man charged in fatal shooting of ex-SEAL/author

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Associated Press

In this April 6, 2012, photo, former Navy SEAL and author of the book “American Sniper” Chris Kyle poses in Midlothian, Texas. A Texas sheriff said Kyle has been fatally shot along with another man on a gun range Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013.

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — A 25-year-old man was charged with murder in connection with a shooting at a central Texas gun range that killed former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and his friend, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Sunday.

Sgt. Lonny Haschel said in a news release that Eddie Ray Routh of Lancaster was arraigned Saturday evening on two counts of capital murder. Officer Kyle Roberts at the Erath County Jail said Routh arrived there Sunday morning and is being held on a combined $3 million bond. Roberts did not have information on whether Routh had a lawyer.

Haschel said Erath County Sheriff's deputies responded to a call about a shooting at the Rough Creek Lodge, west of Glen Rose, at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Police found the bodies of Kyle, 38, and Chad Littlefield, 35, at the shooting range about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said he did not know where Kyle and Littlefield were hit because he had not yet received the medical examiner's report.

Kyle and Littlefield had taken Routh to the range, said Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped found. Littlefield was Kyle's neighbor and "workout buddy," Cox told The Associated Press on Sunday morning.

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 reserve.

"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.

Police said Routh opened fire on Kyle and Littlefield around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and then fled in a Ford pickup truck, which Bryant said was Kyle's truck. At about 8 p.m., Routh arrived at his home in Lancaster, about 17 miles southeast of Dallas. Police arrested him after a brief pursuit and took him to the Lancaster Police Department.

The motive for the shooting was unclear. A knock on the door at Routh's last known address went unanswered Sunday. A for-sale sign was in front of the cream-colored wood-framed home.

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 foundation."

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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