WASHINGTON POST– The first Army investigator who looked into the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last year found within days that he was killed by his fellow Rangers in an act of “gross negligence,” but Army officials decided not to inform Tillman’s family or the public until weeks after a nationally televised memorial service.
A new Army report on the death shows that top Army officials, including the theater commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, were told that Tillman’s death was fratricide days before the service.
Soldiers on the scene said they were immediately sure Tillman was killed by a barrage of American bullets as he took shelter behind a large boulder during a twilight firefight along a narrow canyon road near the Pakistani border, according to nearly 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post.
The documents also show that officers made erroneous initial reports that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, destroyed critical evidence and initially concealed the truth from Tillman’s brother, also an Army Ranger, who was near the attack on April 22, 2004, but did not witness it.
Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones prepared the report in response to questions from Tillman’s family and from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). Jones concluded that there was no official reluctance to report the truth but that “nothing has contributed more to an atmosphere of suspicion by the family than the failure to tell the family that Cpl. Pat Tillman’s death was the result of suspected friendly fire, as soon as that information became known within military channels.”
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© WASHINGTON POST, 2005