The Iraqi war veteran charged with killing former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle over the weekend received psychiatric care twice in recent months, police records show.
Eddie Ray Routh, 25, also told his sister he had “traded his soul for a new truck,” according to an arrest warrant obtained by WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth.
He is accused of shooting Kyle, author of the 2012 bestseller “American Sniper,” and another man, Chad Littlefield, at the Rough Creek Lodge gun range in Glen Rose, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth.
Authorities found the men with multiple gun wounds and several firearms at the scene. Routh fled in a pick-up truck belonging to one of the victims, authorities said.
Routh, of Lancaster, Texas, told police he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the BBC reports. He is a member of the Marine Corps Reserve.
Kyle, 38, was helping Roth deal with his delayed stress, even though authorities said the men had not known each other long.
“I've been told he only met them a couple of days prior, so that's the kind of thing we're having to piece together now," Capt. Jason Upshaw of the Erath County Sheriff's Office told WFAA on Tuesday.
It was not clear if Routh was cooperating with the investigation. Initially, authorities said that they had to subdue him with a Taser to protect jail guards because Routh had become belligerent and had refused to return his food tray.
Routh was also put on suicide watch, the BBC reports.
“He's doing a lot better today,” Upshaw told WFAA on Tuesday. “We've had professionals out to look at him today. He met with his attorney. He's doing a lot better.”
Police records in Lancaster showed that Routh was admitted to a local hospital for psychiatric treatment on Sept. 2 after threatening to kill his family and himself.
Authorities found Routh without a shirt or shoes, and smelling of alcohol, WFAA reports.
“Eddie stated he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through,” the report says.
Records show Routh was re-admitted to the same hospital in January after a woman told the police she was afraid he might harm himself.
On Tuesday, Routh’s attorney told WFAA that he met with his client the previous day and that the conversation was very one-sided, with the lawyer doing most of the talking.
He said Routh was treated as recently as a month ago, but didn't specify for what, the station reports. He remains on medication, the attorney said.
The attorney also said that mental health will be an issue in the defense of his client.
Routh's family told WFAA that PTSD has changed him tremendously. His aunt, Sundae Hughes, said the man in jail was not the man she knows.
"It is PTSD . . . definitely. That's what caused it," she told WFAA. "That's not Eddie; that's not who he is."
As the debate on gun control rages on Capitol Hill, Routh will most likely be cited by gun advocates as another example of someone who should not have had access to guns because of his mental health.
Such advocates also have cited Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who gunned down 26 people, including 20 children, in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.; James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in last July’s movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.; and Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty in August to 19 charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that seriously injured Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killed six people, and injured 12 others.
David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association, said officials should focus more attention on a “devastatingly broken mental health system in this country,” if they genuinely want to end gun violence.
Kyle, a former cowboy, is regarded as the most prolific sniper the US has ever seen.
Kyle’s book provides gripping accounts of combat situations from the 10-year-period between 1999 and 2009 in which he recorded more than 150 kills, although the Pentagon wouldn’t confirm the actual number for Kyle’s book. The previous record was 109.
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