Thursday, August 25, 2005

Military Reopens Probe of Tillman Death

The Pentagon's inspector general is reviewing the Army's probe into the 2004 friendly-fire death of former pro football player Pat Tillman.

The new investigation will review a previous Army probe that Tillman's parents and others have strongly criticized.

"The other investigations were frauds," Tillman's father, Patrick Tillman, told the San Francisco Chronicle for an Aug. 23 story.

"People above should have been punished," added Mary Tillman, referring to her son's commanding officers.

Seven soldiers have received administrative reprimands, but no high-ranking officers have been disciplined, in spite of documents showing that Pentagon commanders knew Tillman was killed by friendly fire, but allowed Tillman's family for weeks to mistakenly believe he was killed by enemy fire.

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Tillman gave up a high-paying National Football League career with the Arizona Cardinals after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to join the Army Rangers. He spurned the Cardinals' offer of a three-year, $3.6 million contract extension, saying he wanted to serve his country.

He was killed at age 27 on April 22, 2004, in a remote, mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

Tillman was shot multiple times by soldiers in his unit who told investigators they mistook him for the enemy. Officials in Afghanistan burned Tillman's uniform and body armor. They filed reports saying Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, and ordered other soldiers in the unit not to discuss the incident.

After his death, the Army initially told Tillman's family and the public that he had been killed in combat against Taliban guerrillas, leading troops up a hill under enemy fire. He was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, and President Bush lauded him as "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror."

Six weeks later, however, the Army finally corrected the lie, and admitted to Tillman's family that he had been killed by members of his own army detachment.
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Three internal investigations were carried out. The parents obtained heavily redacted versions from the Army, and they complained publicly that the documents showed that Pentagon commanders -- including Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command -- had known soon after Tillman's death that friendly fire had killed him.

In June 2005, after Tillman's parents harshly criticized the delay in informing them of the true circumstances of their son's death, the Army apologized.

"While procedural misjudgments and mistakes contributed to an air of suspicion, no one intended to deceive the Tillman family or the public as to the cause of his death,'' an Army statement said.

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