Ike Densmore, 48, had a big dream. He wanted to be a Navy SEAL. He wanted it so bad that even after spending time in the Army he dismissed that less exotic service to, instead, concoct a story about actually being a member of the elite Navy SEAL Team One. He created a public profile that detailed his impressive “history,” inclusive of a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, two Presidential Unit Citations and six Navy “accommodations,” and posted that profile to his various social media sites. By fall of 2012, his story took a hit when journalists and a SEAL activist began to investigate his claims. By the end of January 2013, the jig was up… literally.
Ike Densmore’s body was found on a beach near Ferndale, CA, a gunshot wound to his head in a case Humboldt County Sheriffs called “suspicious.”
According to retired Navy SEAL and training specialist, Don Shipley, SEAL impostors are a growing trend, one that denigrates those who fought and died in their specialized service to their county. Per Dan Noyes at ABC 7/San Francisco:
Members of the Navy’s special operations force, the SEALs, launch a daring night-time raid, killing Osama bin Laden. They rescue a ship’s captain from Somali pirates, killing three of them with simultaneous headshots fired from boat to boat. Such exploits add to the legend of the Navy SEALs, but they also have sparked a surge in the number of impostors.
“Make no mistake, SEALs are the number one targeted group in this country for impostors,” retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley said. “Everybody’s a Navy SEAL.”
Shipley runs a Navy SEAL training camp in Virginia called Extreme SEAL Experience, and he’s made it a mission to eradicate “stolen valor,” the term used for those who co-opt the respected “brand” of the elite military unit and use it as a false identity. He, like others, thought the Densmore story just didn’t hold up. Maybe it was the word “accommodations” used in lieu of the intended “commendations” that alerted someone to the ruse, but at some point Shipley was sent Densmore’s fantastical information and he blew the lid off it.
Shipley receives tips about SEAL impostors from across the country, and he checks the names against this confidential database — a list of all 18,000 men who served as Navy SEALs or who even passed “buds” — basic underwater demolition SEAL training.
Dan: “What do people get out of putting Navy SEAL on a job resume? What does that get them?”
Don: “Respect, it gets them to the head of the line, when you can put those four little letters, S-E-A-L, former, retired, ex on a job resume, it opens doors.
“This stuff starts running straight up my skirt, you throw that impressive resume down there and you add those SEAL claims and then you can’t even spell commendation and write down accommodation, I’m not even sure you served,” Shipley said.
During one of his training camps, Don Shipley reached Densmore on his cell phone, grilled him about his service, and poked holes in his story. [Source]
But Shipley was not the only on Densmore’s case. ABC 7 sent reporters, including Dan Noyes, to the Bay area to talk directly to the elusive soldier.
I followed Densmore to the Palo Alto Department of Veterans Affairs, where he’s receiving services — I couldn’t confirm what kind of services because of privacy laws, and Densmore wouldn’t say.
My Freedom of Information Act request to the “National Personnel Records Center” in St. Louis confirms Densmore did serve in the military. He’s no Navy SEAL — he never even served in the Navy, but in the Army.
Shipley says he can ascertain the validity of a SEAL claim without much effort:
“It would take you about five questions to find out I was a SEAL,” Shipley said. “You’d ask me, what do you do? Well, I’m retired. Retired from what? I’m retired Navy. Oh, really. What ship were you on? I wasn’t on a ship. Where were you stationed at? Eh, Little Creek. What’d you do? I was a SEAL.” [Source]
The story took its ominous turn after Densmore was “outed” during the interviews of last November. He slid off the radar…at least until recently. Up in northern California, in Humboldt county, lies a sweet little dairy community listed on the historic registry; a Victorian Village named Ferndale. Ferndale is 5 miles from what it considers to be its very own beach; Centerville Beach, a stunning coastline of clay cliffs and pounding, wild surf. It was there, on January 24th, that a body was found by a beachcombing local. From The Ferndale Enterprise:
The deceased man found Sunday morning at Centerville Beach has been identified by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office as Ike Densmore, 48, from Menlo Park.
Densmore, according to Humboldt County law enforcement sources, recently made Bay Area news for his alleged impersonation of a decorated Navy SEAL.
Densmore was found by a citizen early Sunday morning, approximately half a mile south of the parking lot. A gun was found nearby. The case is still being described as suspicious, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department.
It was later reported by The Enterprise that an autopsy determined Densmore’s death to be as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His passport and cell phone had been left on the steps of Ferndale City Hall on the day his body was found; he leaves behind a wife.
Shipley said the news of Densmore’s death “saddens me.”
“I go after these guys because I’m a retired SEAL,” he said. “There are very few SEALs alive on this planet. In 70 years, fewer than 18,000 men have gone through that training. It’s a very small community with only 2,500 on active duty. Impersonating one is a terrible thing.”
As for Ike Densmore, he never fully explained the reasoning behind his impersonation, but when asked by ABC 7 reporter, Dan Noyes, in the November encounter if he wanted to apologize for what he’d done, Densmore replied:
“I apologize for a lot of things, Dan.”
Apparently, at least one of those things led him out to that beach off the coast of Ferndale, CA, with a gun in his hand and, perhaps, too much shame to live beyond the charade.
[See video of ABC 7's Dan Noyes and retired Navy SEAL, Dan Shipley.]