WASHINGTON – The Defense Department will investigate allegations of an Army coverup in the shooting death in Afghanistan of Cpl. Pat Tillman, in addition to a criminal investigation into the 2004 killing of the former NFL star, the department said Monday.
Gary Comerford, spokesman for the Defense Department's inspector general, said his office's review of three previous Army investigations of Tillman's death — none of which was a criminal probe — "found things that should have been looked at."
The spokesman would not elaborate. Other officials said the inspector general concluded that the earlier Army investigations had produced enough evidence to merit probing possible charges of negligent homicide. The officials would discuss the matter only on condition of anonymity because the probe has not yet begun.
The death investigation will be conducted by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command. Comerford said the Defense Department inspector general is "looking into other issues raised by the Tillman family and by some members of Congress," adding, "It's not like this is over. This is still an ongoing issue here."
Comerford said it would be contrary to inspector general policy to provide more details. But other officials said the "other issues" include allegations of a cover-up, which the Tillman family has made.
In addition, the officials said the department could examine the Army's failure to notify Tillman's parents before his nationally televised memorial service in May 2004 that he was not killed by enemy fire, as the Army had originally told them. Army investigations concluded that he was mistaken for the enemy and gunned down by his own men.
The Army has publicly acknowledged that it erred by not telling the family earlier that Tillman was killed by fellow soldiers.
Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that while there is no evidence as yet of a crime in the shooting death, Army investigators will want to find out if any of Tillman's fellow soldiers were "firing a weapon when they should not have been."
Three other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the gunfight, which occurred April 22, 2004, near the Pakistan border. It was not clear Monday whether the circumstances of those woundings would be included in the Army criminal investigation.
Tillman's parents have been outspoken critics of the Army's handling of the shooting death. They have accused Army officials of lying, concealing relevant facts and failing to adequately punish the soldiers involved in the shooting. Because of the family's objections, the Army last August asked the Defense Department IG to review its initial investigations.
Some of Tillman's fellow soldiers were given administrative punishment, including one for dereliction of duty for failure to supervise and control the gunfire that was directed at Tillman during what the soldiers thought was a gunfight with enemy forces.
Tillman, who played defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League, joined the Army Rangers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His enlistment drew wide attention because of the lucrative NFL contract he gave up to join the Army.