A Pentagon investigation will recommend that nine officers, including up to four generals, be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, senior defense officials said Friday.
The Defense Department inspector general will cite a range of errors and inappropriate conduct as the military probed the former football star’s death on the battlefront in 2004, said one defense official.
The official, who like the others requested anonymity because the Army has not publicly released the information, said it appears senior military leaders may not have had all the facts or worked hard enough to get the facts of what happened on April 22, 2004, when Tillman, a corporal, was killed by members of his own platoon.
Dozens of soldiers — those immediately around Tillman at the scene of the shooting, his immediate superiors and high-ranking officers at a command post nearby — knew within minutes or hours that his death was fratricide.
Even so, the Army persisted in telling Tillman’s family he was killed in a conventional ambush, including at his nationally televised memorial service 11 days later. It was five weeks before his family was told the truth, a delay the Army has blamed on procedural mistakes.
Tillman’s father, Pat, said Friday he had no intention of commenting on the inspector general’s report until he had heard the Army’s entire briefing on Monday and had analyzed it.
NFL star turned soldier
Tillman’s case drew worldwide attention in part because he had turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to play defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals in order to join the Army Rangers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
To date, the Army has punished seven people, but no one was court-martialed. Four soldiers received relatively minor punishments under military law, ranging from written reprimands to expulsion from the Rangers. One had his pay reduced and was effectively forced out of the Army.
The latest investigation has focused on how high up the chain of command that knowledge went.
Officers from the rank of colonel and up will be blamed in the report, according to one officer who has been informed of the findings.
According to the officials, the report will not make charges or suggest punishments, but it will recommend the Army look at holding the nine officers accountable.
Army plans to ‘take appropriate actions’
One defense official said it appears the inspector general will not conclude there was an orchestrated cover-up in the investigation.
The Army, which requested the inspector general review last year, said in a statement released Friday that it “plans to take appropriate actions after receiving the inspector general’s report.”
The commander of Tillman’s 75th Ranger Regiment was Col. James C. Nixon. Last year he was named director of operations at the Center for Special Operations at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
Nixon knew within about two days that Tillman’s death was fratricide, another officer involved in the investigations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The inspector general is expected to release its report Monday, and also speak to Tillman’s family about the results of the investigation.
Also to be released Monday is a report by the Army Criminal Investigation Command, which will focus on whether a crime, such as negligent homicide, was committed when Tillman’s own men shot him. One defense official said it appears the investigation did not find any criminal intent in the shooting.
Previous investigations of the case have focused on the facts of the incident and sought to answer questions of whether it was a fratricide.
The report’s findings were first reported on Friday by CBS News.
Tillman died in Afghanistan’s Paktia province, along the Pakistan border, after his platoon was ordered to split into two groups and one of the units began firing. Tillman and an Afghan with him were killed.
Since the incident, the Army has moved to improve the notification procedures and now requires an officer to review initial casualty information and verify that the families have been told the best, accurate information.