- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Army said yesterday it will begin a criminal investigation into the April 2004 death of Pat Tillman, the former professional football player who was fatally shot by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in what previous Army reviews had concluded was an accidental shooting.

Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman, said the Defense Department office of inspector general had reviewed the matter at the Army’s request and concluded that a criminal probe was warranted.

Members of the Tillman family were notified Friday, Col. Curtin said. In the past, Cpl. Tillman’s father, Patrick Tillman, and other family members have criticized the Army and its investigations.

“We are obligated to answer the family’s questions, as we are with all grieving families,” Col. Curtin said.

He said the scope of the new investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Command had not yet been determined in detail.

A Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the new investigation has not been formally begun, said it would focus on possible charges of negligent homicide.

Cpl. Tillman, 27, died on April 22, 2004, when he was struck by gunfire during a firefight along a canyon road near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Army said at the time that the barrage of bullets came from enemy fire.

A report by the Army later found that troops with Cpl. Tillman knew at the time that friendly fire had killed the football star. Officers destroyed critical evidence and concealed the truth from Cpl. Tillman’s brother, also an Army Ranger, who was nearby, the report found.

More than three weeks after a memorial service in San Jose, Calif., the Army announced on May 29, 2004, that friendly fire rather than an enemy encounter caused Cpl. Tillman’s death. However, even at the time of the memorial, top Army officials were aware that the investigation showed the death had been caused by an act of “gross negligence,” the report said.

In spite of the Army’s findings, the officer who prepared the report, Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones, concluded there was no official reluctance to report the truth. Army officials have acknowledged that they should have better handled the information they released on Cpl. Tillman’s death.

Cpl. Tillman joined the Army after the September 11 attacks even though he had a multimillion-dollar contract to play football for the Arizona Cardinals. He and his brother completed a tour in Iraq before going to Afghanistan.

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