Father of slain US Navy SEAL refused to meet Trump at ceremony, demands investigation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 3:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 10:22pm

The father of a US Navy SEAL killed during an anti-terrorism raid in Yemen is demanding an investigation into its planning and criticised the Trump administration for its timing.

Bill Owens told The Miami Herald in a story published Sunday that he refused to meet with US President Donald Trump when both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son, Chief Special Warfare Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

“I want an investigation,” said Owens, a retired Fort Lauderdale police detective and veteran. “The government owes my son an investigation.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s This Week on Sunday she believes the president would support an investigation.

“I can’t imagine what this father is going through,” she said. “His son is a true American hero, and we should forever been in his son’s debt.”

How Trump’s first counter-terror operation descended into chaos in Yemen

The younger Owens, a 36-year-old married father of three, was the lone US fatality in the January 27 raid on a suspected al-Qaeda compound. Approximately 16 civilians and 14 militants died in the raid, which the Pentagon said was aimed at capturing information on potential al-Qaeda attacks against the US and its allies.

I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him [Trump]
William Owens

But by some accounts the raid was a disaster. An American child, the 8-year-old daughter of militant Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki - himself killed in a US drone strike in 2011 - was reportedly among the dead. US officials have said they were unable to immediately confirm the civilian deaths, but suggested most or all of those killed were militants. A US$70 million Osprey aircraft was also destroyed during the ill-fated mission.

The elder Owens, a retired Fort Lauderdale police detective and veteran, told the Herald he refused to meet with the president because the family had requested a private ceremony.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,” Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the president.”

He said he was also troubled by the attack Trump levelled at Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, an American Muslim family whose Army officer son died in Iraq in 2004. The couple had criticised him at the Democratic National Convention last summer. He also questioned why the president approved the raid a week after taking office.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens told the Herald. “Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”

Sanders defended the raid in her interview with This Week host George Stephanopoulos. The White House says the raid was planned during the Obama administration, but the former president’s aides have said he hadn’t given the go-ahead because it would have been an escalation of US involvement in the war-torn and destitute Arab country.

“The mission has a lot of different critics, but it did yield a substantial amount of very important intel and resources that helped save American lives and other lives,” Sanders said.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post