In a career mostly lived by the gun, Mr. Kyle’s death at 38 was nonetheless shocking.
He was killed Feb. 2 in a double slaying at the Rough Creek Lodge and Resort shooting range about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Authorities identified the shooter as Eddie Ray Routh, 25, a military veteran living in Lancaster, Tex. Routh was arraigned on two counts of capital murder, in the deaths of Mr. Kyle and another man at the gun range, Chad Littlefield.
Both men were shot at close range, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman said. A motive was unclear.
Mr. Kyle, former Texas ranch hand and bronco buster who called himself the antithesis of the “refined assassin,” joined the SEALs in 1999 and served four combat deployments before retiring in 2009.
The SEALs specialize in surgical strike forces, and Mr. Kyle’s steady nerve, his patience for stalking and his pinpoint marksmanship through his rifle scope earned him two awards of the Silver Star and five awards of the Bronze Star.
Mr. Kyle’s book, “American Sniper: the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Co-written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice, “American Sniper” rode a crest of interest in behind-the-mystique, preserve-the-mystique SEAL volumes such as “No Easy Day,” Matt Bissonnette’s pseudonymous account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Kyle was at the Rough Creek Lodge for a charity event to support his Dallas-based security firm, Craft International. Mr. Kyle also helped start a nonprofit group, the FITCO Cares Foundation, to supply at-home fitness equipment to emotionally and physically wounded veterans.
With his Texas drawl, hulking physique and tightly reserved public manner, Mr. Kyle drew a degree of celebrity in the past year as he appeared on late-night talk shows and in the NBC competition show “Stars Earn Stripes,” which pairs military and law enforcement veterans with actors in drill exercises.
In a Time magazine interview, Mr. Kyle agreed that it was “kind of frowned on” in commando circles to become a public figure. “But I’m not trying to glorify myself,” he said. “I didn’t want to put the number of kills I had in there. I wanted to get it out about the sacrifices military families have to make.”
Christopher Scott Kyle was born in 1974 and grew up on a ranch in Odessa, Tex. As a young man, he hunted deer and pheasant with a bolt-action 30-06 rifle and rode bulls and broncs in rodeos.