Bill Owens, the father of the Navy SEAL killed in a raid in Yemen in January, criticized the Trump administration and called for an investigation into his son’s death, in a news story published on Sunday. Owens, a former prisoner of war, told The Miami Herald that as his son William “Ryan” Owens’ body made it to Dover Air Force Base outside Washington, he was told President Donald Trump was coming to meet him and his wife to pay his respects. However, Owens told the chaplain he didn’t want to see the President.
“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 newspaper.
The Yemen raid, which the White House has said was intended to gather intelligence, immediately came under scrutiny for resulting in the first combat death under Trump’s presidency. In addition to Owens’ death, several other service members were injured, and reports have said as many as two dozen civilians, or more, were killed, including an eight-year-old daughter of the deceased al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.
The White House has insisted that the raid was a success. But some, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, have taken issue with the White House’s framing. But Owens shared a different sentiment. “I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success.”
The White House has bristled at any criticism, claiming such comments dishonor Owens’ life. Owens took issue with the White House’s response, telling The Miami Herald, “Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation.”
“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he said.
According to CNN, three military investigations of the raid are underway: one to look at civilian deaths, another to look at the crash landing of one of the aircraft involved, and a third to look into Owens’ killing, as is standard practice when there is a combat death.
A White House official confirmed that there is an “ongoing DoD investigation” and anticipated it would take a few months, after which a redacted version of the findings will become publicly available under the Freedom of Information Act.
The White House official who spoke with CNN said the mission was thoroughly vetted and planning had begun months before during the Obama administration.
“There’s risks with every military op that you take,” the official said.