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Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle Killed at Gun Range; Former Marine Charged

Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC (Chris Kyle, back right)(GLEN ROSE, Texas) -- A former Marine has been charged with three counts of murder in the killing of former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in U.S. history, and another man at an Erath County, Texas, gun range, police said.

"We have lost more than we can replace. Chris was a patriot, a great father, and a true supporter of this country and its ideals. This is a tragedy for all of us. I send my deepest prayers and thoughts to his wife and two children," Scott McEwen, co-author of "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," said in a statement to ABC News.

Remembering Kyle for the number of Iraqi insurgents he killed misstates his legacy, McEwen said.

"His legacy is not one of being the most lethal sniper in United States history," McEwen said. “In my opinion, his legacy is one of saving lives in a very difficult situation where Americans were going to be killed if he was not able to do his job."

Kyle and a neighbor of his were shot at a gun range in Glen Rose while helping a former Marine who was recovering from post traumatic stress syndrome, ABC affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas reported.

The suspect, identified as Eddie Ray Routh, 25, was arrested in Lancaster, Texas, after a brief police chase, a Lancaster Police Department dispatcher told ABC News. Routh was driving Kyle's truck at the time of his arrest, police said.

Routh was arraigned Saturday evening on one count of capital murder and two counts of murder. He was brought to the Erath County Jail Sunday morning and was being held there Sunday on a combined $3 million bond, Officer Kyle Roberts said.

Investigators told WFAA that Routh is a former Marine said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Kyle helped found a nonprofit that provides at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans, but the director of the foundation said Kyle and Routh had not met through the organization.

Authorities identified the other man who was killed with Kyle as 35-year-old Chad Littlefield, who Cox said was Kyle's neighbor and friend.

Kyle, 38, served four tours in Iraq and was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.

From 1999 to 2009, Kyle recorded more than 150 sniper kills, the most in U.S. military history.

After leaving combat duty, Kyle became chief instructor training Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper teams, and he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual. He left the Navy in 2009.

"American Sniper," which was published last year by William Morrow, became a New York Times best seller.

"We are devastated by the news of Chris Kyle's death," William Morrow executive editor Peter Hubbard said in a statement. "It was an incomparable honor to help share Chris's story of service and faith with the world. Chris was a hero as much on the home front as on the battlefield -- a man who dedicated his life in recent years to supporting veterans and donated the proceeds of American Sniper to the families of his fallen friends. He deserves our deepest respect. Our prayers are with his family and the entire military community. He will never be forgotten."

Kyle was also an advocate for his fellow service members suffering from PTSD, creating a foundation to help with their treatment.

In an interview on Guns.com, he discussed the difficulty troops face coming home from combat zones.

"All of a sudden you don't have no identity," he said "And you have to learn a whole new way to act."

Brandon Webb, a fellow SEAL who knew Kyle from SEAL Team Three and then later when Webb was an instructor at the SEAL sniper course, called him a "larger than life Texan" and said he "will go down in history as one of the world's most accomplished military snipers, right next to Carlos Hathcock, and Lyudmila Pavlichenko."

"Chris was very adamant about supporting veterans’ issues," Webb said. "This was a subject close to his heart, and not many in our community realize how much of his time was spent on veterans' causes. ... Chris will be remembered as a great American Hero, and another friend lost but not forgotten."

Cox said Kyle's wife Taya and their children "lost a dedicated father and husband" and the country has lost a "lifelong patriot and an American hero."

"Chris Kyle was a hero for his courageous efforts protecting our country as a U.S. Navy SEAL during four tours of combat. Moreover, he was a hero for his efforts stateside when he helped develop the FITCO Cares Foundation. What began as a plea for help from Chris looking for in-home fitness equipment for his brothers- and sisters-in-arms struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) became an organization that will carry that torch proudly in his honor," Cox said in a statement.

The fatal shooting comes after a week filled with gun-related incidents, as the national debate heats up on what to do about gun violence.

In the past week, a teen who participated in President Obama's inaugural festivities was shot to death in Chicago, a bus driver was fatally shot and a 5-year-old was taken hostage in Alabama, and a Texas prosecutor was gunned down outside a courthouse.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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