WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden broke his silence on Monday, recounting in an interview the three bullets he pumped into the Al-Qaeda leader and the financial anxiety he now faces as an unemployed civilian.
The commando kept his identity secret in the Esquire magazine profile but revealed his role in the daring May 2011 raid for the first time, as well as the worries he has for his family's security.
"He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting," the Seal says of Bin Laden.
When the commandos came upon Bin Laden on the third floor of his Pakistani hideout, the Al-Qaeda mastermind had his hands on his youngest wife's shoulders, "pushing her ahead" and there was a AK-47 nearby.
"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)," the commando says.
"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 says.
"He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out."
Another Navy Seal who took part in the raid, Matt Bissonnette, offered the first eyewitness account last year in a book titled No Easy Day, which drew the ire of Pentagon officials who accused him of breaking a pledge not to disclose classified information.
According to the Esquire article, the whole confrontation with Bin Laden takes only 15 seconds.
But the most harrowing moment came earlier, when the "shooter" learned that one of the stealthy Black Hawk helicopters in the raid has crash-landed at the compound.
"We're never getting out of here now," he says. "I thought we'd have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up... That's when I got concerned."
After the operation is over, the Seal commando revels in the raid's success in which no Seals were killed or wounded. But by the summer of 2012, after retiring from the military, he said he had become nervous about revenge attacks on his family and how he would make a living as a civilian.
Because he separated from the Navy after 16 years in uniform, he does not qualify for a pension that is awarded only to those who remain for at least 20 years of service.
"He gave so much to his country, and now it seems he's left in the dust," his wife says.
"I feel there's no support, not just for my family but for other families in the community. I honestly have nobody I can go to or talk to. Nor do I feel my husband has gotten much for what he's accomplished in his career," she says.