The Army said Saturday it will launch a criminal investigation into the April 2004 death of Pat Tillman, the former professional football player who was shot to death 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 indeed warranted.
Members of the Tillman family were notified on Friday, Curtin said. In the past, Tillma’s Father, Patrick Tillman and family members have criticized the Army and it’s investigations. A Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the new investigation has not been formally begun, said it would focus on possible charges of negligent homicide.
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 Tillman knew at the time that friendly fire had killed the football star. Officers destroyed critical evidence and concealed the truth from 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 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.
Tillman joined the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror 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.Tillman reasons for joining and his political idealogy had become a public sore spot for those who supported the war as well as those who felt it was unjust.The accusations that the Bush Administration had used his valor and heroic image against his will did not become new until after his death.