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Originally posted by Icarus Rising
That's what bothered me, and obviously Tillman's family, to begin with. It took a month for the Army to admit it was a FFF. That seems like a long time to me, under the circumstances. Now the investigation report will not be made public. The Army apparently doesn't want the public knowing the details of this incident. Tillman was somewhat of a national celebrity, which may have complicated things for them. The whole thing just stinks.
Army Withheld Details of Tillman's Death
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
WASHINGTON — Army officials knew within days of Pat Tillman's death that the former NFL player had been killed by fellow Rangers during a patrol in Afghanistan but did not inform his family and the public for weeks, The Washington Post reported.
A new Army report shows that Gen. John P. Abizaid , the theater commander in Afghanistan, and other top Army officials were aware an investigation had determined the death was caused by an act of "gross negligence" four days before a nationally televised memorial service, the Post reported after reviewing nearly 2,000 pages of documents it had obtained.
He was taking cover behind a boulder along a canyon road near the Pakistani border when a firefight erupted at twilight on April 22, 2004.
The Post reported on its online edition Tuesday night that troops on the scene said they were immediately sure Tillman was killed by a barrage of American bullets.
The documents show that officers erroneously reported that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, destroyed critical evidence and initially concealed the truth from his brother, also an Army Ranger, who was near the attack, the Post reported.
‘No idea where they were’
In interviews with Jones, soldiers who were with Tillman when he died said they immediately reported that other Rangers, riding in a Humvee, emptied their weapons at his position on a hill without first identifying whom they were shooting. Perceiving they were in a heated firefight, the soldiers rounded a corner and used several high-powered weapons to kill an Afghan Militia Force soldier working with the Rangers before pausing and turning their guns on Tillman. About 65 meters away, Tillman had been waving his arms and throwing a smoke grenade to signal his unit that he was not an enemy fighter.
Jones reported that "some soldiers lost situational awareness to the point they had no idea where they were."
While parts of the unit's mission were classified -- one of six volumes of Jones's report contains entirely classified material -- Jones found that the operation on April 22, 2004, was a routine "confirm or deny" trip to determine whether enemy combatants were in the town of Manah. Commanders did not think hostile forces were in Manah, the report said, but an order to hurry up and get troops on the ground there before dusk was passed on because "we were trying to get them back and save them for the next part of the fight," an unnamed officer said in redacted documents.
Followed team leader
Tillman's platoon had to split up because of a broken Humvee. Tillman's half went ahead toward the town. When the second half of the platoon followed through the canyon, it reportedly came under enemy fire. Tillman grabbed another Ranger and the Afghan soldier and got into position to lend fire support. When the second half of the platoon rounded a corner, they mistook the trio as foes.
In the documents, the soldiers who fired on Tillman cite many reasons for the confusion: The sun was going down and lighting conditions were bad; soldiers shot where they saw muzzle flashes but did not appropriately determine a target; they shot in the same direction as their team leader, assuming that he was firing at the enemy.
"I've replayed the events of that day and my actions in response to the events in my mind countless times . . . given the same circumstances and having the same information I had, I would do the same thing," one soldier wrote in response to his punishment, which was getting kicked out of the Rangers. "I engaged men that I believed to be the enemy with the intent of killing them."
Another soldier wrote: "I wish that I would have taken a half second to positively identify the targets instead of following another SOP (shoot where your team leader shoots). Maybe CPL Tillman would still be alive or maybe the outcome would still have been the same, but at least I wouldn't have to live with the guilt and reexperience that ambush while I sleep."
After the shooting, Tillman's brother was not informed about what had happened and was flown back to the United States with his brother's body. Officers told the soldiers not to talk about the incident "to prevent rumors" and news reports.
"I mean, it's horrible that Pat was dead. Absolutely horrible. But it hurts even more to know that it was one of our own guys that did it . . .," one soldier told Jones. "We just, we didn't want to get anything, you know, bad said about the regiment or anything like that. That was my guess to what the whole thing was about. We didn't want the world finding out what actually happened."
The first report about Tillman's death within Army channels -- sent at 4:40 p.m. April 22 -- said that Tillman died in a medical treatment facility after his vehicle came under direct and indirect fire, attributing the gunshot wounds he received to "enemy forces." An investigation was immediately launched, and several documents show that the local chain of command was largely convinced it was fratricide from the beginning.
The next day, Tillman's Ranger body armor was burned because it was covered in blood and was considered a "biohazard." His uniform was also burned. Jones noted that this amounted to the destruction of evidence.
Soldiers reported they burned the evidence because "we knew at the time, based on taking the pictures and walking around it it was a fratricide. . . . We knew in our hearts what had happened, and we weren't going to lie about it. So we weren't thinking about proof or anything."
Commanders felt they could not hold on to the old version because the Rangers were returning home and "everybody knows the story," the documents show.
Seven soldiers were given administrative reprimands for their actions, the most serious of which were for dereliction of duty and failing to exercise sound judgment and fire discipline in combat operations. Jones did not address the appropriateness of the punishments.
One of the initial investigators, who issued a finding of "gross negligence" by the soldiers who shot Tillman, told Jones he felt the punishments did not fit with his finding. The investigator said he felt the chain of command allowed the soldiers to change their stories to protect individuals.
"They didn't get their due just punishment," the investigator, whose name is censored in the report, told Jones. "I guess that's why I was frustrated at how it all unfolded."