STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS (AP) - A 25-year-old Iraq war veteran charged with murdering former Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend turned his semi-automatic handgun onto the pair while they were at a Texas shooting range, authorities said Sunday.
Eddie Ray Routh of Lancaster was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Kyle, 38, and Chad Littlefield, 35, at the shooting range about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
Capt. Jason Upshaw with the Erath County Sheriff’s Office said Routh used a semi-automatic handgun, which authorities later found at his home. Upshaw declined to give any more details about the type of gun used.
Routh has not made any comments indicating what his motive may have been, Upshaw said. 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.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever know. He’s the only one that knows that,” Upshaw said.
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.
Upshaw said autopsies were still pending and he could not say how many times the men were shot or where on their bodies they were hit.
After the shootings, Routh left the shooting range in Kyle’s black pickup truck, Bryant said, first going to his sister’s home in 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 17 miles southeast of Dallas, at about 8 p.m. Police arrested him after a brief pursuit and took him to the Lancaster Police Department.
Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit 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.
“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.
A knock on the door at Routh’s last known address went unanswered Sunday. A for-sale sign was in front of the small, 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.