Army: Evidence Did Not Match Up With ‘The Scenario As Described’
SAN FRANCISCO — New details are emerging about the death of NFL player turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 and his death was eventually blamed on friendly fire. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show Army medical examiners concluded that evidence did not match up with “the scenario as described.”
The doctors, whose names were blacked out, said bullet holes in Tillman’s head show he was cut down by an M-16 rifle fired from about 10 yards away. The doctors tried without success to get a criminal probe launched.
The documents also showed Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade and told him to stop “sniveling.” And Army attorneys sent e-mails congratulating each other for keeping criminal investigators at bay.
Ultimately, the Army did conduct a criminal investigation and concluded his death was a friendly-fire accident.
The report, issued in March, said in part, “Our review found that Cpl. Tillman’s chain of command made critical errors in reporting Cpl. Tillman’s death and in assigning investigative jurisdiction in the days following his death, and bears ultimate responsibility for the inaccuracies, missunderstandings, and perceptions of concealment that led to our review. Those errors, in part, contributed to omissions and inadequacies in the three investigations that followed Cpl. Tillman’s death. Additionally, we concluded that Army officials failed to properly update family members when an investigation was initiated into Corporal Tillman’s death and that the justification for his Silver Star contained inaccuracies.”
The report also said that Tillman’s family members were not told of the true cause of Tillman’s death until 35 days after he was killed, and that officers also knew that Tillman was likely killed by friendly fire before his funeral but declined to make the information public. Even so, the military said there was no evidence of a cover-up.
President George W. Bush didn’t learn that Tillman was killed by friendly fire until well after the funeral, the White House said.
Army Spc. Bryan O’Neal told a House committee in April that he “was ordered not to tell” Tillman’s brother that the former football star had been mistakenly killed by fellow U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Kevin Tillman was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened, but didn’t see it.
O’Neal said the order came from the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon.
Military officials said Thursday that Army Secretary Peter Geren is expected to recommend that a retired three-star general be demoted for his role in providing the misleading information about Tillman’s death.
Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger is one of seven high-ranking Army officers expected to get official reprimands for making critical errors in reporting the circumstances of Tillman’s death.