High-ranking Army officers made critical errors in reporting the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, but there was no criminal wrongdoing in the shooting of the former NFL star by fellow soldiers, the military concluded Monday.
Army and Defense Department investigators said that officers looking into the incident passed along misleading and inaccurate information and delayed reporting their belief that Tillman was killed by fellow Rangers. The investigators recommended the Army take action against the officers.
Among those blamed were the three-star general in charge of Army special operations as well as Tillman’s regimental commander.
The investigation also recommended that the Army review its award of the Silver Star to Tillman, but the acting secretary of the Army said the award would stand. Defense Department Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble said some information provided to justify the citation was inaccurate.
The highest current ranking officer blamed in the incident is Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. Investigators said he was “accountable for the inaccurate and misleading assertions” contained in the papers recommending that Tillman get the Silver Star.
But investigators said there was no broad cover-up. “We thought there was never an attempt to cover up that we saw,” Gimble said.
Initially said death was during ambush
The conclusions were described by Army investigators as they released a pair of reports into Tillman’s 2004 killing. The military initially told the public and Tillman’s family that the death had occurred during an ambush in a remote part of Afghanistan but did not say it was caused by members of his own unit.
Tillman’s death received worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge professional football contract from the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all the families of our fallen soldiers: Give them the truth, the best we know it, as fast as we can,” said Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren. “Our failure in fulfilling this duty brought discredit to the Army and compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family. For that, on behalf of the Army, I apologize to the Tillman family.”
The Army, he said, will take corrective action and hold people accountable.
He said he had accepted the recommendation of an Army board that Tillman’s Silver Star award be affirmed, even though some information submitted in support of it was inaccurate. “The Silver Star stands,” Geren said. He added that the citation would be rewritten to correct inaccuracies.