Marine suspect in Chris Kyle shooting is getting death threats

February 4, 2013
Chris Kyle in Texas last year. (Paul Moseley — AP)

DALLAS — The former Marine accused of fatally shooting American sniper Chris Kyle, whose battlefield exploits and post-war book made him an international celebrity, is now restrained to a chair in his jail cell in Erath County, Tex.

That’s after jailers used a taser to subdue Eddie Routh, 25, when he wouldn’t give back his dinner tray and became aggressive, Erath Sheriff Tommy Bryant told the local newspaper, the Glen Rose Reporter.

Routh faces two capital murder charges in Saturday’s killing of Kyle and another former veteran, Chad Littlefield. Bond has been set at $3 million.

The case has already drawn international attention, largely because of Kyle’s fame after surviving four deployments in Iraq and a post-war book that made him widely known as the deadliest sharpshooter in American history.

Many in Texas were proud of the native son, not only for his wartime heroics, which earned him two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars, but also for his imaginative post-war career. When he left the service three years ago after a decade as a SEAL, he started a security training company, as well as a nonprofit to help returning vets.

Routh, who also hailed from North Texas, may have been one of those troubled former veterans Kyle and Littlefield were seeking to help.

“This shooter is possibly one of those people that he had taken out to the range, to mentor, to visit with, to help him.” Sheriff Bryant told reporters.

“We have an idea that that’s why they were at the range, for some kind of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with,” Bryant said.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, Kyle believed that vets suffering from post-traumatic stress and other battlefield ailments could bond and work out some problems while handling weapons.

“While it sounds backwards, I actually think time on the range and using those skill sets in a controlled and safe environment could be a huge benefit to veterans,” Kyle friend and former SEAL Rorke Denver told reporters.

What’s most unclear now is how the bizarre double shooting will fit into the narrative of either side in the nation’s current gun rights debate.

It’s clear that Kyle, unlike other recent high profile shooting victims, was a gun enthusiast. He gave countless interviews making it clear that he saw his sniper duties as a way to protect comrades. He killed hundreds of people, yet once said he regretted not being able to do more to protect fellow soldiers.

And yet, he is dead at 38, with a wife and children left behind. Littlefield is also survived by a young family.

Their memories unquestionably deserve to be honored, and their work with troubled veterans should continue. One can only wonder whether there are other lessons to be learned from their senseless, tragic deaths. They will be remembered as heroes, on and off the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the man charged with their killings sits in jail and has been receiving death threats.

Lori Stahl covers politics and culture in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LoriStahl.

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