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Since retiring from the Navy SEALs, Chris Kyle, who was known as America's deadliest sniper, would occasionally take fellow veterans shooting as a kind of therapy to salve battlefield scars.
Kyle, author of the best-selling book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, was with a struggling former soldier on just such an outing on Saturday, hoping a day at a shooting range would bring some relief, said a friend, Travis Cox.
Shot dead ... former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, photographed in Texas in April 2012. Photo: AP
But Texas authorities said Sunday that for unknown reasons, the man turned on Kyle and a second man, Chad Littlefield, shooting and killing both before fleeing.
"Chad and Chris had taken a veteran out to shoot to try to help him," Cox said. "And they were killed."
On Sunday, the police identified the shooter as Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old veteran with a history of mental illness who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The police offered no information about a possible motive.
The booking photo of Eddie Ray Routh, suspected in the shooting and killing of Chris Kyle and another man at a shooting range. Photo: Reuters
A spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety's Highway Patrol Division, Sgt. Lonny Haschel, said in a statement that Routh shot the men at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, at the Rough Creek Lodge, an exclusive shooting range near Glen Rose, about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Routh then fled in a pickup truck and was arrested on Saturday night at his home in Lancaster, a southern Dallas suburb. He has been charged with two counts of capital murder, Haschel said.
Cox, the director of a foundation that Kyle created, said he was not acquainted with Routh, but said that Kyle had devoted his life since his military retirement to helping fellow soldiers overcome post-traumatic stress.
In 2011, Kyle created the FITCO Cares Foundation, to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. He believed that exercise coupled with the camaraderie of fellow veterans could help former soldiers ease back into civilian life.
The audiobook of Chris Kyle's autobiography.
"He served this country with extreme honor, but came home and was a servant leader in helping his brothers and sisters dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder," Cox, also a former military sniper, said by telephone.
Kyle, who lived outside of Dallas, had his own difficulties adjusting after retiring from the SEALs in 2009. He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum.
He became proficient at his job, racking up more than 150 kills and becoming the scourge of Iraqi insurgents, who put a price on his head and reportedly nicknamed him the "Devil of Ramadi."
He preferred to think of his job not as killing bad guys, but saving the good.
"I feel pretty good because I am not just killing someone, I am also saving people," he said in a Jan. 2012 interview with The Dallas Morning News. "What keeps me up at night is not the people that I have killed. It is the people I wasn't able to save."
Manny Fernandez contributed reporting.
The New York Times