A former Navy Seal who survived bloody gun battles in war torn Iraq and became the deadliest sniper in American military history has been shot and killed at a hunting resort in Texas. Chris Kyle was credited with killing more than 150 enemy combatants during four tours of duty, a record that earned him a legendary status among his fellow Seals and made him a prominent target for Iraqi insurgents who were said to know him as ‘The Devil of Ramadi’ and placed a $20,000 bounty on his head.

He was shot and killed on Saturday afternoon at a shooting range south west of Fort Worth along with Chad Littlefield, 35, a neighbour and friend.

Witnesses suggested that the men were attempting to help a military veteran, Eddie Routh, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Reportedly a former marine, the 25-year-old has been charged with two counts of murder. Police said Routh had opened fire on the two men, fled in a Ford pickup truck and was arrested near his home just after four hours later, after a brief pursuit.

The death of America’s most lethal sniper in a peaceful part of Texas came in the midst of a bitter argument over gun control. Kyle himself had weighed in recently, accusing President Barack Obama of being “against the Second Amendment.”

“Chris and Chad were gym buddies,” said Travis Cox, another former sniper who is executive director of Fitco Cares, the veteran’s foundation that Kyle helped to establish after leaving the military. He told The Times: “There is no way to wrap your head around what happened, that they died trying to help a veteran in need.”

Asked why they might have taken a veteran to a shooting range, he said: “A lot of veterans enjoy the outdoors and … if you share a common interest, it’s a platform to help. It wasn’t connected with the foundation, this was just the type of men they were.”

Kyle’s feats with a .300 Winchester Magnum had long been legendary in military circles. He had killed two combatants riding away on a motor scooter with a single bullet and killed another who aimed a rocket launcher at an army convoy from a range of 1.2 miles. “God blew that bullet and hit him,” he said last year, after he became known to a wider audience through a bestselling memoir American Sniper.

“If you were going to write a fictional character you couldn’t really create one like Chris because people would say it’s too good to believe,” said Jim DeFelice, a co-author of that memoir. “He struggled most with how to put God, country and family in order, but he never put himself first,” he said. “When the book came out he got a lot of attention, but he remained a good old Texas boy.” ( Courtesy TIMES)

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