Eight years ago, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was murdered.
He was shot and killed alongside his buddy Chad Littlefield by Eddie Ray Routh, a former Marine with serious mental problems. The three had gone to a range to shoot some targets near Glen Rose, Somervell County, Texas, to unwind and help Routh battle his demons.
Chris Kyle was arguably the best sniper in U.S. military history.
On the day he died, Kyle secretly texted Littlefield, sitting next to him in the pickup, saying Routh was “straight-up nuts.” Kyle’s wife, Taya, “could tell something was up” that afternoon when she spoke to her husband. Kyle sounded “irritated,” as she testified in court. Then he never responded to a text asking if he was OK.
Littlefield texted back: “He’s right behind me, watch my six,” telling Kyle in military slang to watch his back.
The last time Taya Kyle spoke with her husband, she testified at the trial, was around 3 p.m. She reached him on his cellphone, and he told her they had just arrived at the lodge. But their short conversation left her fretful.
Arriving at the range, they carried several rifles, five handguns and boxes of ammunition, and protective earplugs to an open platform, 12 feet wide and sheltered under a corrugated metal roof. Kyle and Littlefield were carrying loaded .45 caliber 1911-style pistols on web holster belts. They began using the range, and investigators determined that a .38 single-action handgun was fired downrange, as was a Colt .45 cowboy-style revolver.
Routh later said that it bothered him that Chad Littlefield was not shooting; it somehow made him a threat. At some point, Routh armed himself with a 9mm Sig Sauer P226 MK25 pistol — the model used by Navy SEALs — and a Springfield .45 pistol.
SEAL Kyle and Littlefield Never Had a Chance to Defend Themselves.
Routh told one of the psychologists, who examined him later, that he shot Littlefield first then Kyle. Littlefield was struck seven times in the back, shoulder, head, and hand, with slugs from the 9mm handgun. Kyle was hit six times in the head, shoulder, chest, and right arm by bullets from the Springfield .45. They fell with their sidearms still holstered and with the safeties on.
Littlefield was lying on his back on the shooting platform, and Kyle was facedown in the grass nearby. Routh reloaded the Sig Sauer to its full 15-round capacity and took this weapon, along with one of the rifles and Littlefield’s cellphone, and left the range in Kyle’s truck. No one saw him drive away.
Around 5 p.m., a Rough Creek employee noticed the warning flag was still up. A lodge guide was dispatched to the range, and he discovered the two men. Lodge staff and EMS first-responders attempted to revive the victims to no avail.
Routh’s attorneys said that the former Marine suffered from psychosis, paranoia, and schizophrenia. Prosecutors argued that Routh was a “troubled man” who struggled with a “personality disorder,” not insanity.
The two sides of the courtroom were in direct contrast to one another. Dr. Randall Price, a forensic psychologist who testified as to the prosecution’s medical expert, said that Routh’s heavy marijuana use had caused a “substance-induced psychotic disorder.” Dr. Mitchell Dunn, testifying for the defense, opined that Routh’s “psychosis was not substance-induced.”
Chad Littlefield, who was Kyle’s neighbor and workout buddy, found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The two had taken Routh to the shooting range to smooth the 25-year old Marine veteran’s rocky path back into civilian society.
“As he tried to help another, his life was taken from him suddenly and unexpectedly,” reads Chad’s obituary posted by his family on the Midlothian Funeral Home’s website. “But, Chad was a Christian and spoke of his Savior often, so Jesus was there waiting for him and took him to the mansion He had prepared for him.”
Christ Kyle was known among his SEAL brethren as the Legend, and to his enemies as al-Shaitan, “the devil.”
Chris Kyle was the deadliest sniper in American history. He had at least 160 confirmed kills, by the Pentagon’s count, but by his count —and his Navy SEAL teammates’ accounts — the number was closer to twice that.
Kyle earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor in his four military tours in Iraq. He survived six IED attacks, three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, and more surgeries than he could remember.
“If there was ever going to be a movie that was even going to come close to getting it right, this was it,” Taya Kyle remembers eventually telling herself about American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s 2014 movie based on Chris’s autobiography.
“A lot of people thought writing the book [American Sniper] was going to be cathartic for us, and it wasn’t. It was so fresh, so much about the struggles we had just gotten through, and it was taking us back in the mix of it. But with this movie, and having just lost Chris, it was very different. I do believe it was very healing in some ways,” she said.
“[Screenwriter] Jason Hall spent all this time with me, and I’m talking about my memories and my life and my love, and the love of Chris towards the kids and me. It was healing for me to be able to give that and to be able to preserve some of those memories differently,” Taya Kyle adds.
“Whenever you lose someone, you’re always afraid, ‘What if I forget something? What if I miss something?’ This helps that. It’s been a really beautiful thing.”
Chris left behind a wife and two children.