PHOENIX (AP) — He was a former Phoenix high school star distance runner who was the grandson of an Arizona financier involved in the 1980s savings and loan scandal.
Charlie Keating IV went on to run track at Indiana University, attend the Naval Academy and become a Navy SEAL based out of San Diego, California.
Keating, 31, died Tuesday in Iraq in an Islamic State group attack near the city of Irbil.
He’s the third American serviceman to die in combat in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition launched its campaign against the Islamic State in the summer of 2014, according to military officials.
“Like so many brave Americans who came before him, Charlie sacrificed his life in honorable service to our nation for a cause greater than self-interest, which we can never truly repay,” U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered all state flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in honor of Keating, who also was the cousin of former Olympic swimming champion Gary Hall Jr.
According to the Arizona Republic, Keating was known as C-4 because he had the same name as three generations before him.
Keating’s grandfather, Charles H. Keating Jr., who died in 2014 at age 90, was the notorious financier who served prison time for his role in the costliest savings and loan failure of the 1980s.
The scandal also shook the political world. Five senators who received campaign donations from Charles Keating Jr. — McCain, Democrat Alan Cranston of California, Democrat John Glenn of Ohio, Democrat Donald W. Riegel Jr. of Michigan and Democrat Dennis DeConcini of Arizona — were accused of impropriety for appealing to regulators on Keating’s behalf in 1987.
Keating’s grandfather was sent to prison when Charlie was a small child and other children reportedly made fun of him.
“What happened in the past, I really don’t care. I’m really close to him,” the younger Keating told the Republic in May 2004 when he ran in the Class 4A state track and field championships in suburban Mesa, Arizona, and his grandfather watched him compete for the first time.
A 2004 graduate of Phoenix’s Arcadia High School, Keating was city and region champion in the 1,600-meter run as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Rob Reniewicki, Keating’s former track coach at Arcadia, said he has kept it touch with him through Facebook over the years, and he is heartbroken by the news.
“He was a tremendous athlete, a tremendous person. I’m devastated. I’m crushed. I’m trying to hold myself together,” Reniewicki told Phoenix TV station KTVK.
Reniewicki said Keating was planning to get married in November.
At Indiana University, where his father was a three-time All-America swimmer from 1974-77 and finished fifth in the breaststroke at the 1976 Olympics, Keating ran cross country and track from 2004-06.
Keating was a member of the 2004-05 Hoosiers team that was Big Ten Conference runner-up in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. He competed in the mile run.
“When Charlie left IU to enlist and try to become a SEAL, I don’t think it really surprised any of us,” said Robert Chapman, professor of kinesiology at IU Bloomington, who served as Indiana men’s cross country coach from 1998-2007. “You could tell he was a guy who wanted to be the best and find out what he was made of, and serving as special operations forces for his country embodied that.”