Robert J. O'Neill (Navy SEAL)

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Robert O’Neill
File:Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill.jpg
O'Neill in November 2014
Born (1976-04-10) April 10, 1976 (age 46)
Butte, Montana, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1995–2012[1]
RankSenior Chief Petty Officer
UnitSEAL Team 2
SEAL Team 4
United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group ("SEAL Team 6")
Battles/warsSecond Liberian Civil War
  • Operation Shining Express

Iraq War

  • Operation Iraqi Freedom

War in Afghanistan

  • Operation Red Wings

Maersk Alabama hijacking

Operation Neptune Spear
AwardsSilver Star (2)
Bronze Star Medal (4)
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2)
Presidential Unit Citation (3)
WebsiteOfficial website

Robert James O'Neill (born April 10, 1976) is a former United States Navy sailor. A former U.S. Navy SEAL and special warfare operator, O'Neill claims to have fired the shot(s) that killed Osama bin Laden during the raid on his Abbottabad compound on May 1, 2011.

Early life and education[edit]

O'Neill was born April 10, 1976 in Butte, Montana, where he was raised.[2] In his youth, his father, Tom, took him hunting and taught him sharpshooting. In 1995, at age 19, a year after graduating from Saint Joseph’s Preparatory High School, O'Neill enlisted in the Navy.[3]

Military career[edit]

O'Neill initially sought to become a sniper in the United States Marine Corps where he had known some friends. On the day he arrived at the recruitment office, the Marine recruiter was not in. Instead, a Navy recruiter suggested that O'Neill enlist in the U.S. Navy, telling him that he could be a sniper in the U.S. Navy SEALs.[4]

O'Neill graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training class 208. O'Neill served with SEAL Team Two from 1997 to 2001 and SEAL Team Four from 2001 to 2004.[5] In March 2004, O'Neill joined the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group and completed numerous deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq over the next eight years.

As a member of the U.S. Navy SEALs, O'Neill was reportedly involved in more than 400 missions,[6] including the mission to save Captain Richard Phillips during the Maersk Alabama hijacking, and Operation Red Wings in which O'Neill helped save Marcus Luttrell.[7] In 2012, having served 16 years, O'Neill left the U.S. Navy, feeling that the choice was best for his family.[8]

He was honorably discharged, but his early departure cost him a government pension and he had some tough financial times while transitioning into civilian life.[9] He is now a public speaker employed by Leading Authorities, a speakers bureau, and has been criticized for trying to cash in.[10] O'Neill was hired as a contributor for Fox News Channel in 2015 to lend "his military expertise across the cable channel’s daytime and primetime programs."[11]

O'Neill rose to the rate of senior chief special warfare operator (E-8). His 52 decorations include two Silver Stars, four Bronze Star Medals with Valor device, a Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor device, three Presidential Unit Citations, and two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Valor device.[12]

In 2017, O'Neill published The Operator, in which he describes his deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, life as a Navy SEAL, and the death of Osama bin Laden.[13]

Death of bin Laden[edit]

O'Neill had been identified as the man who killed bin Laden in anticipation of a Fox News special called The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden,[14] which was expected to reveal his identity and details of the mission Operation Neptune Spear. He had previously been interviewed anonymously in an Esquire magazine article in February 2013.[15][16]

O'Neill's statements resulted in criticism by fellow Navy SEALs. Rear Admiral Brian Losey and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci issued a public statement, stating that "a critical tenant [sic] of our ethos is 'I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.'"[17]

In 2012, Matt Bissonnette, using the pseudonym "Mark Owen", wrote a book called No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden documenting his participation in the raid. In his book, he does not identify the man who fired the fatal shots at Bin Laden, referring to him as simply the "Point Man". Bissonnette himself admits to firing his weapon at bin Laden after the fatal shots were fired by the "Point Man" when bin Laden was already "in his death throes."[18] He has, however, refused to respond directly to O'Neill's claims, adding that he believed the team effort was more important than one person pulling the trigger.[19] The United States Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into whether Bissonnette leaked classified material.[14][20][not in citation given]

Legal issues[edit]

In April 2016, O'Neill was charged with DUI after police found him unconscious behind the wheel of a car at a gas station in Butte, Montana. He failed a field sobriety test and refused to undergo a breathalyzer test; he denied being intoxicated, saying that his falling asleep was the result of his taking a prescription sleep aid. The Butte-Silver Bow County Attorney's office opted to downgrade charges from driving under the influence to endangerment and defer prosecution for 12 months, agreeing to drop the charges completely so long as O'Neill sought treatment for unspecified medical reasons.[21][22][23]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2017, O'Neill, then 41, married Jessica Halpin, then 27, in a Catholic ceremony held on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.[24]


  1. "Osama bin Laden killing: US Navy Seals row over shooting". BBC News. United Kingdom: British Broadcasting Corporation. November 7, 2014.
  2. Myers, Meghann (November 6, 2014). "Osama bin Laden Shooter ID'ed Ahead of Fox Interview". USA Today. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  3. NBCMontana. "Friends describe Butte man who killed Osama bin Laden". NBCMontana.
  4. "Robert O'Neill".
  5. "FRobert O'Neill's Military Record". Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  6. Alexander, Harriet (November 6, 2014). "Robert O'Neill: The Man Who Shot bin Laden". The Telegraph. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  7. "Profile". The Daily Mail. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  8. Sullivan Show, 4/24/2017: "What, just go to war five more times, and I get $1,200 a month?"
  9. ""I'm not trying to make this about me"". CBS News. November 14, 2014.
  10. Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew & Sean D. Naylor, (Nov 07, 2014). Another ex-commando says he shot bin Laden. Star-Advertiser.
  11. "Former Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill joins FOX News". 2015-03-12. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  12. "Osama bin Laden shooter speaks at Blount Co. event",, November 6, 2014; accessed November 8, 2014.
  13. "The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior | Simon & Schuster". 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Walker, Hunter (November 3, 2014). "REPORT: The Navy SEAL Who Shot bin Laden Has Been Identified". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2015-09-18. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  15. Bronstein, Phil (February 11, 2013). "The Man Who Killed bin Laden... Is Screwed". Esquire Magazine. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  16. Peligri, Justin (November 6, 2014). "Ex-SEAL Says He Fired Final bin Laden Shot". CNN. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  17. Johnny Dodd (November 7, 2014). "Alleged Osama bin Laden Shooter Accused of 'Violating' Navy SEAL 'Ethos' for Going Public". People.
  18. Owen, Mark (September 4, 2012). No Easy Day. Dutton Penguin. p. 170. ISBN 978-0525953722. Search this book on Logo.png
  19. "Navy SEALs Robert O'Neill, Matt Bissonnette In Public Dispute Over Who Killed Osama Bin Laden". International Business Times. 7 November 2014.
  20. Bergen, Peter (November 4, 2014). "Did Robert O'Neill really kill bin Laden?". CNN.
  21. Lester, Tiffany. "Butte residents discuss Rob O'Neill DUI arrest". KECI. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  22. "Prosecutors drop DUI charge against Navy SEAL who said he killed Bin Laden". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  23., Hunter Pauli. "DUI charge against Rob O'Neill dropped; amended prosecution deferred". Montana Standard. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  24. "Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden reveals wedding joy and love story". Mail Online. Retrieved 2018-02-27.

External links[edit]

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