(NEW YORK) -- The Navy SEAL who says he pulled the trigger on Osama bin Laden is speaking out for the first time to describe his key role in the harrowing raid, and to say he feels abandoned by the military he served for so long now that he's left the service, according to a new report.
In an interview conducted by Phil Bronstein of the Center for Investigative Reporting and published online Monday by Esquire magazine, the SEAL Team Six member, referred to only as "the Shooter," gives the first eyewitness account in which the al Qaeda leader is described as a direct threat right up until the moment he was killed in early May 2011 in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"I'm just looking at him from right here," the SEAL said, moving his hand about 10 inches from his face, according to Esquire. "He's got a gun on the shelf right there, the short AK he's famous for. And he's moving forward... He's got a gun within reach. He's a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won't have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up]."
"In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place... He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath," the Shooter said.
While media outlets, the White House and other people involved in the mission may grapple over exactly what happened in bin Laden's last moments -- none of the handful of public accounts tell precisely the same story and even two men in the Shooter's account disagree -- much of the Shooter's reported tale focuses not on the crowning achievement of his long special operations career, but on his fear of transitioning from military to civilian life. Unable to put "I killed Osama bin Laden" on his resume, the Shooter told Bronstein he's unsure of how he's going to support his family.
Leaving the Navy four years before his 20-year pension kicked in, and declining to continue active duty in a "support role" or as a reservist, the Shooter is left without income until he can find a new gig. But finding employers who can understand, much less use, the kinds of executive skills he and his comrades have developed is difficult, he said. While many go into private contracting, the Shooter said he no longer wants to carry a gun professionally.
"I still have the same bills I had in the Navy," he reportedly said. "I just want to be able to pay all those bills, take care of my kids, and work from there... I'd like to take the things I learned to help other people in any way I can."
ABC News has been unable to confirm that the "Shooter" is indeed the man who killed bin Laden and the Navy said Monday it could not corroborate any new details about the secret mission. The Navy said that when it comes to the Shooter's after-service predicament, "it would be difficult to determine the degree to which our transition programs succeeded."
"Navy SEALs continue to serve and fight bravely in Afghanistan and around the world, accomplishing critical missions that keep our nation safe," a statement from the Navy said. "We take seriously the safety and security of our people, as well as our responsibility to assist Sailors making a transition to civilian life."
Other revelations from the Shooter's account of the bin Laden raid, according to Esquire:
- The Shooter and his fellow sailors did not expect to return from the Abbottabad mission and even started calling his small team -- the team that was to land on bin Laden's roof -- the Martyrs Brigade. "Because as soon as we landed, I figured the house was going to blow up."
- The Shooter had apparently never seen the high-tech stealth Blackhawk helicopter that carried them to the objective before. "The odds just changed," he reportedly joked at the time. "There's a 90 percent chance we'll survive... I didn't know they were sending us to war on a f*****g Decepticon."
- As in No Easy Day, written by another SEAL on the raid, the Shooter praises the point man on the third floor of bin Laden's compound for tackling two women that the SEALs suspected were wearing suicide vests. "It was the most heroic thing I've ever seen."
- The pictures of a fallen bin Laden are gruesome. "The American public doesn't want to know what that looks like."
- The female CIA analyst who was sure bin Laden was in the compound was the recipient of the Shooter's rifle magazine after the raid. It held 27 bullets, only missing the three that struck bin Laden.
- A cache of opium was discovered in several duffle bags under a bed in another room of the compound.
- A Navy SEAL did whisper bin Laden's son's name to call him out of the shadows, but did not whisper for bin Laden, as shown in Zero Dark Thirty, the Hollywood dramatization of the hunt for the al Qaeda leader. The Shooter called the operator's decision to flush out the armed young man by calling for him in Arabic and then Pashto, "the best combat move" he'd ever seen.
- Other complaints about Zero Dark Thirty: During the raid, the SEALs do not talk that much, and would never yell "Breacher!" when they need a door taken out.
- As many warriors do, the Shooter wrote a note to his family before the mission, expecting not to survive. "[T]he tears are hitting the page," he said of the letters, "because we all knew that none of us were coming back alive. It was either death or a Pakistani prison, where we'd be raped for the rest of our lives."
- The Shooter's children refer to Osama bin Laden as "Poopyface," because the SEAL didn't want them to utter the terror leader's real name, telling them to think of it like a curse word.
READ: The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed (Esquire.com)
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