Battleland

Killer. Healer. Victim.

In Iraq, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was a world-class sniper. At home he worked to help fellow veterans. That mission got him killed

  • Share
  • Read Later
Paul Moseley / Fort Worth Star-Telegram / MCT / Getty Images

The late Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL sniper.

The Accused
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported last year that nearly 1 in 3 vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq treated at VA hospitals and clinics has suffered from some type of posttraumatic stress. Routh was one of those, according to his family. His four-year Marine stint included a standard seven-month Marine tour in Iraq in 2007–08 as well as a 2010 deployment to Haiti. Back home, he was jobless except for occasional carpentry work. He was in and out of VA facilities over a two-year period, seeking to deal with his worsening mental health, and spent 15 days in jail after a drunk-driving arrest.

In September, police in his hometown of Lancaster, Texas, apprehended him when he allegedly threatened to kill his parents and himself after his father Raymond threatened to sell his gun. The cops found Routh shoeless, shirtless and drunk. He told them that “he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through.”

Routh’s mother Jodi reached out to Kyle for help. There was a link between the famous sniper and her troubled son beyond their military service. They had attended the same high school, 14 years apart, in the Dallas suburb of Midlothian. Kyle, friends say, could never say no to a plea for assistance, especially from the worried mom of a troubled veteran.

So Kyle telephoned Routh and invited him to go shooting with him and Littlefield, 35. The trio pulled into the range, in a remote part of the Rough Creek Lodge southwest of Fort Worth, midafternoon on Feb. 2. Precisely what happened next remains unknown. Routh is the only surviving witness, and he isn’t talking to anyone, including his family and court-appointed lawyer. Police say Routh killed both men with a semiautomatic handgun shortly after the three arrived. Two hours later, a hunting guide discovered the pair “lying on the ground, covered in blood,” according to Routh’s arrest warrant.

Routh then allegedly fled the scene in Kyle’s big-tired black Ford F-350, a handsome pickup that can cost more than $40,000. Shortly before he was captured, he told his sister and brother-in-law that he had killed the two and “traded his soul for a new truck,” according to an arrest affidavit. In a search of his house, police recovered the handgun they believe Routh used.

The Erath County sheriff said “the suspect may have been suffering from some kind of mental illness from being in the military.” (Routh in fact remains a member of the Marine Reserve and could be called back to active duty.) The day following the killings, jailers fired a stun gun at Routh after he became aggressive while in solitary confinement. They restrained him and put him under a suicide watch. He is being held on two murder charges and a $3 million bond.
Some say the VA and the military should have done more. “This simply further highlights the dangers of an inadequate treatment system that continues to cost service members, both active and retired, their lives,” says Rob Kumpf, who served with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan and has suffered from PTSD since.

But experts say such violent outbursts are impossible to predict. And a 2012 study found that many things beyond PTSD can set off a troubled vet. “When you hear about veterans committing acts of violence, many people assume that posttraumatic stress disorder or combat exposure are to blame,” says a co-author of the study, Eric B. Elbogen of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Medicine. The survey of 1,388 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq found that poverty led to more reports of aggression than PTSD. Substance abuse and a criminal record increase the chances of trouble. Positive social interactions and jobs tamp down the likelihood of violence.

Post-9/11 veterans are already concerned about a rush to pin the crime on so far unconfirmed reports of Routh’s PTSD. “We don’t actually know the alleged murderer’s mental state or background,” cautions Brandon Friedman, who served as a rifle-platoon leader and executive officer with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Having PTSD does not signify a propensity to commit murder. There is no empirical correlation, other than what Hollywood portrays.”
Still, the tragedy will be difficult to erase from the public’s subconscious.

Denver, the ex-SEAL, tells himself that his friend’s final moments were peaceful. “I’m sure Chris, in that instant, had utter confidence that with another veteran, he was in a safe place and doing right by what appears to be a very troubled young man,” he says. “That’s what makes it triply sad.”

—with reporting by Belinda Luscombe/New York 

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. Next
22 comments
LauHiengHiong
LauHiengHiong

Anyone who has attained such a laudable position as one of the most accomplished sharp-shooters during a war is certainly a hero in our mind. However, the ensuing praises and great admiration might, unintentionally, somehow transform the retired veteran into an overconfident superhuman. The complacence may be reinforced by a series of later events like the success in publishing an autobiography, even further consolidated by TV appearances and speaking engagements. The overwhelming fame thus established – plus strong passion and enthusiasm towards fellow veterans -- may lead one to become even more decisive and assertive, so as to assume a therapeutic role to aid former sick comrades suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder or whatever.

One recurrent human weakness is often witnessed in overconfidence, complacency, and over-conceited attitudes. This human weakness might have resulted in the tragedy which destroyed a bright future of a brilliant soldier. A lesson should have been learned by all of us from this disastrous dramatic shooting incident.

Lau Hieng-Hiong, Hsinchu, TAIWAN

slackersmom
slackersmom

First of all, I don't see how the title of the article is disrespectful.  The article makes it clear that Chris Kyle was a patriotic, conscientious soldier who did his job.  I doubt he himself would complain about it.

What I wonder is, knowing that Routh had "mental" issues, and knowing that he had also threatened to KILL his parents, why would anyone think it was a good idea to invite someone like that to a gun range???

mustard88
mustard88

This is 2nd time that I wrote:

I read about Mr. Chris Kyle from a Vietnamese magazine in a gun control topic...It was on my mind. Then I read more about his legacy from Time Magazine. He certainly loved his nuclear family. It is very rare in this state and age, especially in the America mainstream, Hollywood Media. Please pray for him.  I am also convinced that he is watching over America now. MR. CHRIS KYLE, PLEASE BLESS AND PRAY FOR AMERICA, VIETNAM AND THE PHILIPPINES!

sretsoK
sretsoK

Fox News or Limbaugh must have gotten a bunch of peoples panties in a bunch with their "Fair and Balanced" reporting after reading these comments. 

NadePaulKuciGravMcKi
NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

TIME will tell us all about how Chris Kyle bragged about shooting dead two guys with his 45 at a Texas gas station in 2009

Government and Media coverup ... or more make-believe like the Jesse Ventura Smear boast?

Victoriasmith
Victoriasmith

"Time" is certainly showing its bias with the title of this poorly written article. What a disgrace and how very disrespectful to the memory of Mr. Kyle. Bad form.

vreyes78
vreyes78

It's unbelievable that your publication had the nerve to call Chris Kyle a killer. This man is an American hero, he saved American service members lives by killing the enemy *FACT*. And now after his death you people attempt to piss on grave by calling him a killer when what you should be doing is paying homage and thanking him since it's been men and women like him that protected your right to free speech and freedom of press since the inception of this country only to have the manner in which that freedom is given to you questioned.

austinjamesdavison
austinjamesdavison

Time you disgust me, Chris Kyle is an american hero who killed so we wont have to and those who wish to harm us cant. Chris Kyle stepped up to the plate and did what most men cant even imagine doing. @JoeGrobmeier You sure are fast to talk for some one who is enjoying the freedom he helped pay for and was willing to give his life so you could talk bad about him. If a terrorist were to take you hostage im sure you would want him to save you. We have 33 organizations on the foreign terrorist list who would love to harm Americans  Its because of people like him who keep us safe.

fograin
fograin

Discerning who ur enemy is, IED's killing ur buddies, unable to avenge your buddy's experience. "Re-entry", now overnight thrust back into a society very different than the one you left.  Hacks, politico's, liars, cheats and theieves. Personally, I  have never met a fellow Combat Vet w/an aversion to firing a weapon.  The shooter was gonna have a weapon w/him everywhere he went 4 the rest of his life. Why?, he would never fell safe again for the rest of his life.

Bandsecurity
Bandsecurity

How is Chris Kyle a "Killer"?  He was a soldier and he followed orders.  That is what soldiers do and unfortunately it sometimes involves death.  What a terrible title. Instead of Killer, it could of been hero or soldier or sniper.  I think by using the title of killer, Time is implying that the deaths were not sanctioned, justified or committed in a that was against the UN.  This is just terrible journalism.  You should really be ashamed of yourself.  The last thing anyone would think of Chris Kyle is that he was killer. 

SashaShepherd
SashaShepherd

@Bandsecurity Because he killed people. How hard is this to understand?

Bandsecurity
Bandsecurity

He did so in the course of his job and in protecting the US and other soldiers.  There is a difference between justifiable homicide and murder.  How hard is this to understand? 

Bandsecurity
Bandsecurity

I am sure some of them could have been. By using the word "Killer" it implies that he did something immoral or unjust.Could they have used a better word to describe his role in the war?Yes, how about soldier, sniper or warrior.His actions saved the lives of many other service members.I certainly don’t get that impression when Time defines him as a Killer.When a police officer or mother is forced to use a weapon to defend themselves, should we refer to them as Killers?Is that technically accurate?Perhaps, but it is really not a proper characterization.

SashaShepherd
SashaShepherd like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Bandsecurity It didn't say he was a murderer. It said he was a killer.

In WWII, there were about 20 million soldiers killed by other soldiers. Were none of them 'killers?'

JoeGrobmeier
JoeGrobmeier

He got what  was due.A cold blooded murder for hire.

vstillwell
vstillwell

It always comes back to the economy. Always. These vets are coming back to the worst economy since the Great Depression. You take away people's hope, you take away everything, and a few go off the deep end. Just saying.  

sretsoK
sretsoK

@vstillwell The worst economy since the depression is a funny statement. How long are the bread lines in your neighborhood? Wait, there aren't any? Weird. 

Reportfactsnotopinions
Reportfactsnotopinions like.author.displayName 1 Like

While I appreciate the coverage on Kyle, why is there not equal coverage for the other solider Chad,  that lost his life in this incident? Are they not both decorated Veterans.

Paul_Yew
Paul_Yew like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Reportfactsnotopinions I totally agree with you here. All the news related to this case has focused on Kyle so far. I'm glad Kyle is being recognised, but how about the other vet, Chad?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,106 other followers