An Iraq war veteran has been charged with murdering Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL hailed as the deadliest military sniper in US history, at a shooting range in Texas.
Eddie Ray Routh, from Lancaster, Texas, was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at the shooting range about 80km southwest of Fort Worth.
The shooting comes amid a raging debate in the United States over gun violence, especially that carried out by people with emotional or mental illness. Local news reports have said that Routh was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Routh has not made any comments indicating what his motive may have been, according to police.
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 any medication.
The US military confirmed on Sunday that Routh was a corporal in the Marines from 2006 to 2010. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010. He is currently listed as a reservist.
'He turned the gun on them'
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 from 1999 to 2009. Kyle said in his book that Iraqi insurgents had put a bounty on his head.
The Dallas Morning News wrote that Kyle was awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor for his military service.
Bryant said the trio went to the shooting range on Saturday afternoon. A hunting guide came across the bodies several hours later and called police.
After the shootings, Routh left the shooting range in Kyle's black pickup truck, Bryant said, first going to his sister's home in nearby 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 27km southeast of Dallas, later on Saturday evening. Police arrested him after a brief pursuit.
Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit to help wounded veterans that 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.
"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.
Kyle's nonprofit, FITCO Cares, provides at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.