Reuters International

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - An ex-U.S. Navy SEAL who has said he fired the shot that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was arrested in Montana early on Friday on suspicion of driving under the influence, a police official said.

Rob O'Neill, 39, appeared inebriated when he was found in the driver's seat of a car with the engine running outside a convenience store in Butte in western Montana, said Undersheriff George Skuletich of the Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement Department.

He declined to take a breathalyzer test and was arrested for driving under the influence - his first offence of that kind - and booked into jail before he was released on bail of $685, Skuletich said.

O'Neill, who grew up in Montana and listed Dallas, Texas, as his current home, said in a statement that he had taken a "prescribed sleep aid" because of his "longstanding, severe insomnia."

"While the timing was bad and I highly regret this decision, I am innocent of the charge and have entered a plea of not guilty. I am confident I will soon be cleared of this matter," he said.

O'Neill was scheduled to celebrate his 40th birthday on Saturday at a concert hall in Butte.

Although O'Neill was not seen driving the car, under Montana law a person found drunk behind the wheel can be arrested for driving under the influence even if the vehicle was not moving at the time, Skuletich noted.

O'Neill gained public attention when he told The Washington Post in 2014 that he fired the fatal shot that struck bin Laden in the forehead during the 2011 Navy Seal commando raid on the al Qaeda leader's compound in Pakistan.

The Post said O'Neill acknowledged shots were fired at bin Laden by at least two other SEAL team members, including Matt Bissonnette, who wrote a 2012 book about the raid entitled "No Easy Day."

Fox News Channel, which hired O'Neill as a network contributor, has profiled him in a television documentary titled: "The Man Who Killed Usama bin Laden."

Last year, a supporter of Islamic State militants issued a threat against O'Neill on Twitter.

The U.S. government has never officially confirmed who fired the shot that killed bin Laden.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Sara Catania, Paul Simao and G Crosse)

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