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Pat Tillman’s death: Still shrouded in mystery and coverup

July 24, 2006

ESPN.com has investigated the cover up of Pat Tillman’s friendly fire murder. Its chilling how the cover up is still being kept under wraps (Officers are forbidden from talking about it.). Author Mike Fish has spent months investigating the facts that are available regarding the night that Pat Tillman was shot in the forehead 3 times.
There are 3 parts to the article:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I have chosen to post excerpts of the lowlights.

Part 1: For reasons that remain under investigation more than two years later, the Pentagon elected for almost five weeks after the incident not to disclose the fact Tillman had been gunned down by members of his own platoon. Yet some in Tillman’s unit knew the night it happened. ESPN.com found that word of the fratricide had filtered through the ranks within a day or two of Tillman’s death.

Army brass calling the shots from Camp Salerno also understood what had to be, for them, the discomfiting news about the elite group of soldiers expected to live and fight by a Ranger Creed that reads, in part, “I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy, and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.” According to one of the documents obtained by ESPN.com, an Army official flown in to join the platoon the day after the shooting as part of the April 25, 2004, debriefing process told Army investigators, “I think at that point people already knew that it was a fratricide.” He said, “So when I say ‘people’ — [I mean] leadership, okay.”

In the meeting three days after Tillman’s death, however, chaos and unanswered questions dominated the warm night air as Mansfield and the rest of the unit tried to understand how a Ranger — one of the soldiers who even then was with them under their tent — had killed the most famous soldier in the war. As the meeting progressed, the young men took turns pitching their piece of the big picture. Words like “bad judgment” and “panic” were tossed about. Gossip and suspicion flowed freely.

O’Neal, an 18-year-old soldier who had been positioned on the ridge just a few yards from Tillman during the firefight, sat quietly through most of the meeting. Eventually, though, his few, riveting words brought a hush over the assembled platoon. Another soldier at the session, Spc. Pedro Arreola, told ESPN.com that O’Neal, fighting back tears and shaking with emotion, said: “The only reason I am standing here is because Pat Tillman saved my life.”

“The first bullet that struck him in the head, he was dead,” Dr. Baden told ESPN.com. “Then he was struck by two additional bullets, because of the rapid fire of the weapon that was used. He also may have been shot by other weapons in the arm and vest. This would indicate that … more than one person was firing at him.”

The previous investigations under Army regulation 15-6, which establishes procedures for such inquiries, concluded that a trio of young Rangers was following the initial fire of their squad leader, Sgt. Greg Baker, as the soldiers were trained to do. But none of those official inquiries identified who squeezed the trigger on the fatal shots.

Baden, though, suspects that enough ballistics evidence remained for the Army to have pinpointed the shooter, even though key evidence such as Tillman’s uniform and body armor was destroyed within three days of his death. Baden also said X-rays could have been used to identify the path the bullets took through Tillman’s head, but the results were not included in the autopsy report. And neither was mention of a hole in Tillman’s leg discovered by a soldier who helped carry the body down the hillside.

“They should be able to figure out where the bullets came from, from the trajectory analysis, and whose weapon they came from, from microscopic ballistic comparison,” said Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police and a frequent consultant in high-profile murder cases. “The person who fired probably knows who he is. I think the supervisors know who the shooter or shooters were, but they’re not releasing it.
[Emphasis mine]
According to the Army officer who directed the first official inquiry, the Army might have more of a clue about the shooter’s identity than it has let on. Asked whether ballistics work was done to identify who fired the fatal shots, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich told ESPN.com, “I think, yeah, they did. And I think they know [who fired]. But I never found out.”

Mansfield and other Rangers who attended the post-incident meeting said — both in interviews with ESPN.com and in documents from the Army investigations — they were advised by debriefers that night that the unit as a whole bore the responsibility for Tillman’s death and they should avoid placing blame on any one person.

In his interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich also said he was not driven to identify Tillman’s killer. “You know what? I don’t think it really matters,” Kauzlarich said. “And the reason I say that — you got to look at the overall situation here that these guys were fighting in. And somebody hit him. So would you hold that guy [who] hit him responsible for hitting him, when everybody was shooting in that direction, given the situation? We’ll see how the [Defense Department Inspector General’s] investigation comes out. But I had no issue on not finding a specific person responsible for doing it.”

“His parents continue to ask for it to be looked at,” Kauzlarich said. “And that is really their prerogative. And if they have the right backing, the right powerful people in our government to continue to let it happen, then that is the case.

“But there [have] been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide, and the parents have basically said, ‘OK, it was an unfortunate accident.’ And they let it go. So this is — I don’t know, these people [Pat’s parents, family and friends] have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs.”

In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November 2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he’d learned Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother’s body was returned to the United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family’s unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: “When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.”

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans’ religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, “I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know.”

[I don’t know why they would have doubts, do you? /snark]
Kauzlarich, now 40, was the Ranger regiment executive officer in Afghanistan, who played a role in writing the recommendation for Tillman’s posthumous Silver Star. And finally, with his fingerprints already all over many of the hot-button issues, including the question of who ordered the platoon to be split as it dragged a disabled Humvee through the mountains, Kauzlarich conducted the first official Army investigation into Tillman’s death.

That investigation is among the inquiries that didn’t satisfy the Tillman family.

“Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we’re not Christians, and the reason that we can’t put Pat to rest is because we’re not Christians,” Mary Tillman, Pat’s mother, said in an interview with ESPN.com. Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion.

“Oh, it has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady,” she said sarcastically, “But it is because we are not Christians.”

After a pause, her voice full with emotion, she added, “Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn’t lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything those [people] are, he wasn’t.”

The Army, too, isn’t eager to discuss publicly either the specifics of the battle in which Tillman was killed or the events and investigations that have taken place since. ESPN.com e-mailed a series of questions about Tillman’s death to the Department of the Army. Paul Boyce, the Army’s deputy director of public affairs, cited the ongoing investigation as a reason for declining to respond. [Emphasis mine: Where have we heard that before?????]

In some cases, it appears the Army has tried to discourage the soldiers who fought with Tillman from speaking about how he died. Some of the Rangers contacted by ESPN.com said they were told that a nondisclosure agreement they signed upon entering the regiment precludes them from talking about the incident. Others told ESPN.com that a confidentiality agreement they signed upon leaving the Rangers prohibits them from discussing classified information. Notices also have been posted around Fort Lewis advising soldiers not to talk about the Tillman incident with the media, according to a Ranger from Tillman’s platoon who was stationed there.

And that concludes the snippage from part 1. There are links to transcripts of interviews with company (Not sure if that’s the correct unit name), a timeline, and a transcript [that you can only get to if you are an ESPN insider, sorry bugmenot doesn’t have a login] of a chat with the reporter of the story. ESPN.com has done an absolutely superb job, with the research, and information presented. I feel that this story deserves publication on the front page of every MSM “institution.” And barring that I’ll post it. Kudos to ESPN.com and Mike Fish.

To quote Pat Tillman “This war is so fucking illegal”

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5 Comments
  1. Mike C. Sf Bay Area permalink
    July 15, 2007 5:22 am

    I know this is not going to be a popular response but I’ve been reading and following this Tillman thing since day one. While it may not be popular I’m going to break down truth about it. Not so much the Pentagons truth but he common sense truth. What are my credential to speak on this position you may be asking. I lived the first 30 years of my life in the bay area, and that area was and continues to be the highest crime area in bay area, If you can survive there for 30 years believe me you know something about survival in this world. Not just the streets but the world because the rules are the same. Also despite the fact that I lived those conditions I earned two degrees from what is arguably the best school in the bay area, in the state for that matter so its not as if my arguments are not well thought out they are balanced with street smarts and book smarts. Here it goes, I’m sick of hearing about Pat Tillman! He’s dead because he didn’t have the sense to not be where he didn’t belong or have to be. Poor people of this coountry fight and die in every war this country gets into. They don’t do it because they want to protect the american way of life, they do it because in the end it’s thier best hope for a future. So when we see someone who has everything going for them and has their life pretty much made, we don’t get enamored with them and say how brave they were, because we know that’s bullshit. You were one of those thrill seeker idiots who signed up because you wanted to show show how tough and macho you are. While the rest of us who actually grew up having to prove ourselves for day to day survival look at Tillman and say ” what a dumb shit” take the money and play ball and don’t worry about the war. The poor and disenfranchised have always been the grunts and foot soldiers. But we don’t get news stories and we’ve been fighting all our lives but one great white hope takes his dumb ass out where he didn’t have to be and moreover where he didn’t belong, because I know military training is great but you know at least 50 percent of those volunteer boys have never fought for their lives before they get out there, he gets out there and gets himself killed and everyone is crying and blaming the Pentagon. Of course the Pentagon is covering! What did you expect?! Again Real World. Soory I just cant shed a tear or think what a tragedy, he had a million options available to him and he chose the one that could get him killed. Anyone with sense would have have been far away from bombs or friendly fire.

  2. July 15, 2007 6:04 am

    Thanks for the comment Mike. I think of Pat Tillman as a symbol for all the needless deaths. And as Pat said “This war is so fucking illegal”

  3. gregory c permalink
    December 11, 2007 9:50 pm

    Mike C, 30 years in the bay area? Say what? This leads you to become an authority?

    Just another brother sittin on the sideline cheering the team, while the players play. You know not of self sacrifice, you have never pushed threw when the body says, “I’m done.” You don’t understand what I mean, you’ve never been there, you know it! Bay area, come on, please.

    This man, Pat Tillman, will add more to our country in 27 years than you will add in your entire life, your two degrees included. Again, you have never been there, Mama’s boy!

    Why would anyone with Tillman’s grade point average serve his country just to be “GI JOE?” Did I miss something, he never wanted to go public, turned down all interviews. SELF SACRIFICE!

    This guy was a cut above you, me and 99.9% of the world and died while trying to save his fellow service men whom he thought was under attack.

    Again, two degrees and all, you just can’t grasp it. The only reason for your negative write is that you’ve never been there (self sacrifice) or you would show respect.

    Read what you wrote. It’s about you, your two degrees, and 30 years of knowledge growing up in the bay area!!

    I would wipe my ass with you and your 30 years of bay area “hoodisms.” You know it!

    It is a shame this young man died, he would’ve made a difference in this world. All you have to do is look at what he accomplished in such a short time through self sacrifice.

    SELF SACRIFICE, again, you know nothing of this, fuckin clown!

Trackbacks

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