U.S. Army won't release report on Tillman's death
15 Apr 2005 19:33:03 GMT
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Army said on Friday that at the family's request it will not make public a new report on Cpl. Pat Tillman's 2004 death in Afghanistan that confirmed the former professional football player was killed by friendly fire.
Les Brownlee, then-acting secretary of the Army, ordered a fresh investigation in November in response to questions raised by Tillman's family about the circumstances of his death in a remote canyon in southeastern Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.
Investigators visited the scene of the incident and interviewed soldiers involved before wrapping up more than four months of work in March, said Col. Joe Curtin, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon.
"There was no change to the original findings. The matter's closed," Curtin said. "It has concluded it was a fratricide." The full report will not be released, he said.
The terms friendly fire and fratricide are used by the military to describe an accidental or mistaken attack on one's own forces or allies.
Tillman's mother had accused the military of burning her son's uniform to try to hide the circumstances of his death, and his father had said the initial investigation was a lie.
Curtin said the Army briefed the family and members of Congress about the findings of the new report, which "essentially substantiated" the conclusions of an initial report completed in May 2004.
Curtin said the Army was not trying to cover up or hide anything by not releasing the new report, and said Tillman's family had asked that it not be made public.
"There is absolutely nothing to hide," Curtin said.
The investigation was headed by Brig. Gen. Gary Jones of the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Tillman played for four years in the National Football League but walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to sign up as an Army Ranger.
Initial official statements by the Army, even ones released after investigators already had received sworn statements about friendly fire, indicated Tillman had been killed by enemy fire when his convoy was ambushed by insurgents.
After the completion of the initial investigation, U.S. Central Command issued a statement on May 29, 2004, saying Tillman "died as a probable result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces." Army Rangers opened fire on comrades after a series of missteps and miscommunications, that initial investigation found.
No one has faced criminal charges over the incident.
Tillman is one of 134 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001, according to Pentagon figures.