The special forces commando who brought down Osama bin Laden said he had no choice but to kill the terrorist kingpin, fearing he had a gun or suicide explosives close at hand.
The Navy SEAL team member, identified only as “The Shooter” by Esquire magazine, describes the three shots that delivered sudden justice to the world’s most despised man.
Bin Laden appeared to push his youngest wife toward the advancing SEALs before the fatal bullets were fired inside his safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011.
“He's got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he's famous for. And he's moving forward,” the shooter said.
“I don't know if she's got a vest and she's being pushed to martyr them both. 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 fateful moment, the shooter told the mag he knew what needed to be done.
“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 said.
“That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.”
The shooter’s clean shot at bin Laden was made possible by a fellow SEAL who brilliantly lured out and killed the terrorist’s son — and last line of defense.
The shooter was about five people in back of a line, following their point man who had spotted bin Laden’s armed, 23-year-old son was just ahead.
“I heard him whisper, 'Khalid... come here' in Arabic, then in Pashto. He used his name. That confused Khalid. He's probably thinking, 'I just heard s----y Arabic and s----y Pashto. Who the f--k is this?’ He leaned out, armed with an AK, and he got blasted by the point man,” the shooter said in the interview.
“That call-out was one of the best combat moves I've ever seen. Khalid had on a white T-shirt and, like, white pajama pants. He was the last line of security.”
Seconds after killing bin Laden -- and in the high of that moment -- the shooter said he had an understandable mix of emotions.
“And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: 'Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done?’ ” the shooter said. “This is real and that's him. Holy s--t.”
The shooter explained the months of preparation and dry runs in a model of bin Laden’s safe house built in North Carolina.
humor to break the tension of their incredibly serious task.
“I was usually the guy to joke around when we were planning these things — we all d--k around a lot,” he said.
“But I was like, 'Hey guys, we have to take this f--king serious. There's a 90-percent chance this is a one-way mission. We're gonna die, so let's do this right.’"
Members of SEAL Team 6 understood there was a great chance they’d die or be captured in this harrowing mission.
The Pentagon even developed a plan if the SEALs were approached by Pakistani forces, who were not told of the mission.
“We would surrender. The original plan was to have Vice President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan's president,” the shooter said.
“This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said, 'Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military?' That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am f--king voting for this guy. I had a picture of him lying in bed at night, thinking, 'You're not f--king with my guys.’ Like, he's thinking about us.”
Once they bagged bin Laden’s body and returned to base, the shooter met up with the female CIA analyst who had devoted her life to finding the 9/11 mastermind.
That CIA operative told SEALs she was absolutely sure they’d find bin Laden — code name “Pacer” — in his third-floor bedroom. That’s exactly where he was.
“While they were still checking the body, I brought the agency woman over. I still had all my stuff on. We looked down and I asked, 'Is that your guy?’ She was crying,” he said.
“That's when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. 'I hope you have room in your backpack for this.’ That was the last time I saw her.”
The shooter has since seen the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” Hollywood’s take on the famed bin Laden raid.
He had minor beefs with the flick, but said he appreciated how director Kathryn Bigelow and actress Jessica Chastain portrayed CIA operative “Maya.”
"They made her a tough woman, which she is,” he said.
The Esquire piece focused heavily on the shocking lack of economic safeguards built in for exiting SEALs.
The shooter, a 16-year Navy veteran, said he hasn’t figured out how he’ll handle life with no healthcare insurance or a pension.
The shooter would have been eligible for a meager pension had he struck around for 20 years. Healthcare was only picked up for 180 days after he left the Navy, the shooter said.
"I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said 'no,' " the shooter said. "'You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go f--k yourself.'"
The brutal stress of life inside ST6 also took a huge toll on the shooter’s marriage.
He and his wife are legally separated but still live together to cut costs and raise their kids. Amazingly, the shooter and his wife both said they still love each other, but believe marriage isn’t for them right now.
"Our marriage was definitely a casualty of his career," said the shooter's wife. "Somewhere along the line we lost track of each other."
They still live in fear that his leading role in bin Laden’s killing could bring reprisals, even on US soil.
"We're actually looking into changing my name," the wife said. "Changing the kids' names, taking my husband's name off the house, paying off our cars. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other."