Video: New probe launched into Tillman death

updated 3/6/2006 8:51:50 PM ET 2006-03-07T01:51:50

Separate from an Army criminal investigation of the 2004 shooting death of former NFL star Pat Tillman, the Defense Department is probing other sensitive aspects of the case including allegations by his family that the Army covered up facts, officials said Monday.

Gary Comerford, spokesman for the Defense Department’s inspector general, said the Army and the Tillman family were notified last Friday that an IG review of three previous Army investigations of the shooting death — none of which was a criminal probe — “found things that should have been looked at,” Comerford said.

The spokesman would not elaborate, but other officials said the inspector general concluded that the earlier Army investigations had produced enough evidence to merit probing possible charges of negligent homicide. The officials would discuss the matter only on condition of anonymity because the probe has not yet begun.

Aside from the death investigation, which will be done by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the Defense Department inspector general is “looking into other issues raised by the Tillman family and by some members of Congress,” Comerford said. “It’s not like this is over. This is still an ongoing issue here.”

According to NBC News’ Courtney Kube, the investigation will look into the death of Tillman as well as the wounding of other soldiers in the incident. The probe should determine whether there is any criminal culpability that resulted in those casualties.

Three other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the gunfight, which occurred April 22, 2004, near the Pakistan border.

Failure to disclose information
Comerford said it would be contrary to IG policy to provide more details, but the other officials said the “other issues” include allegations of a cover-up and the Army’s failure to notify Tillman’s parents before his nationally televised memorial service in May 2004 that he was not killed by enemy fire as the Army originally told them. Army investigations concluded that he was mistaken for the enemy and gunned down by his own men.

The Army has publicly acknowledged that it erred by not telling the family earlier that Tillman was killed by fellow soldiers.

“I am saddened that another investigation into the death of Pat Tillman is necessary as previous investigations have yet to answer many of the questions that still persist about the circumstances of this exemplary young man’s death,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement Monday. “The Tillman family deserved better than they have received.”

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that while there is no evidence as yet of a crime in the shooting death, Army investigators will want to find out if any of Tillman’s fellow soldiers were “firing a weapon when they should not have been.”

Tillman’s parents have been outspoken critics of the Army’s handling of the shooting death.

They have accused Army officials of lying, concealing relevant facts and failing to adequately punish the soldiers involved in the shooting. Because of the family’s objections, the Army last August asked the Defense Department IG to review its initial investigations.

Some of Tillman’s fellow soldiers were given administrative punishment, including one for dereliction of duty for failure to supervise and control the gunfire that was directed at Tillman during what the soldiers thought was a gunfight with enemy forces.

Tillman, who played defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League, joined the Army Rangers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His enlistment drew wide attention because of the lucrative NFL contract he gave up to join the Army.

NBC News contributed to this report.

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