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Navy SEAL deserter killed fighting in Ukraine war

A Special Warfare (SEAL) pin, known as a “Trident,” pinning during graduation ceremony at NSW Center in Coronado, Calif., April 15, 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)
January 20, 2023

A former Navy SEAL who was fighting in the Ukraine war died early Thursday morning, days after being wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade amid fierce fighting in the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Daniel Swift, 35, left behind four children. He has been designated as an active deserter by the Navy since March 2019, a Navy official told Rolling Stone.

He had been wounded the night of Saturday, Jan. 14 in Bakhmut when Russians launched an RPG at Swift and two other soldiers, according to Adam Thiemann, a former U.S. Army Ranger who previously fought alongside Swift in Ukraine.

An anonymous American intelligence official told Rolling Stone that Swift suffered a massive traumatic brain injury and died early on Thursday. The other two soldiers are in stable condition and recovering, according to Rolling Stone.

The battle for Bakhmut has been raging since around November, as reported by the Associated Press. It’s part of Russia’s goal to consolidate control of eastern Ukraine, and is notable for the heavy involvement of mercenaries from the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group.

READ MORE: ‘The Bakhmut meat grinder’: Russian troops are pummeling this Donbas city. It’s unclear why.

Thielmann described the former Navy SEAL as “one of the hardest and most tactically proficient men I have ever met.”

“He only had one uniform,” Thielmann said. “He used duct tape to tape armored plates to his chest and back to go on target until he was given a plate carrier.

“After our SEAL Team Six guy left, he led our team in Crimea, Severodonetsk, and Svyatohirsk, and continued to lead the team after I left.”

Rolling Stone pieced together Swift’s career from a memoir on Amazon, “The Fall of a Man,” apparently published under a pseudonym. 

Swift claimed that he served on five combat deployments in the Middle East by the time he was 30. He earned medals, including the Legion of Merit, and later served as a police officer in Washington and Oregon.

By April 2019, a month after being listed as a deserter, Swift was facing a felony bench warrant, charged with false imprisonment relating to a divorce. His warrant is still active, the San Diego County Sherriff’s Department told Rolling Stone. 

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.