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'Miami Herald' Reporter Visits Father Of Navy SEAL Killed In Yemen Raid

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Six days into office, President Donald Trump signed off on a raid on an al-Qaida compound in Yemen. When it was over, two dozen Yemenis were dead, as was a Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owens. The Defense Department is investigating how that happened. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged the review today, but says Owens understood the risks.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SEAN SPICER: It's something that as a SEAL and as someone deployed 12 times, he knew that this was part of the job, and he knew what he was doing. And so we're very comfortable with how the mission was executed.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Someone who is not comfortable with that is Bill Owens, Ryan's father. He refused to meet with President Trump when both were at Dover Air Force Base to see Ryan's body arrive home. Bill Owens gave an exclusive interview to Julie Brown, a Miami Herald reporter. I asked her why Bill Owens wants an outside investigation.

JULIE BROWN: He fears that this is going to be swept under the rug. It - that it's going to be like any other kind of investigation that the Department of Defense routinely conducts when there is a mission that goes awry, such as this one obviously did. I think that he is - also wants it to go beyond the nuts and bolts. Why was this decision made when it was? He wants to know where the president was when the mission went down? He would like to know who specifically was there and who influenced him? This was a time when there were all these executive orders being signed, so there was a lot of chaos.

SHAPIRO: And Bill has asked Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona to take action on an investigation of this sort.

BROWN: Well, he's - after Sean Spicer made a statement taking Senator McCain and others to task for questioning the success of the raid, Mr. Owens was quite upset about that. He said words to the effect that, you're not dishonoring my son's memory. Don't hide behind my son's death as a reason not to conduct a thorough investigation.

SHAPIRO: When Bill Owens' son was brought back to Dover Air Force Base, why, according to Bill, did he choose not to meet with President Trump? What reason did he give you?

BROWN: Mr. Owens said, you know, he felt this sickness in the pit of his stomach. He just - at that moment, just couldn't imagine confronting Trump. He had already had bad feelings about him from the campaign, he told me - the way that he treated the Gold Star family.

SHAPIRO: This is Khizr Khan, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, right?

BROWN: Right. He was offended by that. He is a veteran himself. He has three sons who served, and, you know, he's a former - he's a retired police officer. They've had public service in their family for generations. And for President Trump to criticize someone who has lost a son or daughter serving our country, to him, was just a disgrace. And so he had harbored those feelings even before this happened, and, needless to say, here he now was a Gold Star parent in that situation.

SHAPIRO: What did Bill Owens tell you about his son Ryan that stuck out in your mind?

BROWN: I think what stuck out in my mind is that he was so determined that he - even when failing one of the pieces of the training, he went out and got his own trainer to help him with his diving, which was one of the things that he had struggled with. And he paid for it in on his own. And it says a lot about how dedicated he was to serving his country.

SHAPIRO: That's Julie Brown, reporter at The Miami Herald, speaking with us about Bill Owens, father of the slain Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. Thanks so much.

BROWN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF ELGAR'S "ENIGMA VARIATIONS, OP. 36" ) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.