TRACY, Calif. – The Pentagon waited nine months after completing an investigation into the deaths of two U.S. soldiers before notifying relatives the men were killed by Iraqi troops, the military acknowledged Wednesday.
The June 2004 deaths of Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., 34, of Tracy, and 2nd Lt. Andre D. Tyson, 33, of Riverside, were originally attributed to an ambush during a patrol near Balad, Iraq. The Army said this week a military investigation found the two had been shot by Iraqi civil defense officers. No possible motive has been divulged.
Military officials visited Tyson's family on Tuesday and McCaffrey's on Wednesday to deliver the report, which was completed on Sept. 30, 2005, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. She called the nine-month delay troubling.
"If the American people knew that the people we are directly helping train turned on our soldiers, support for this war would slip," Boxer said. "It's very disturbing to think that the Pentagon might be told to keep this kind of thing close to the vest."
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed Boxer's timetable on Wednesday.
"There was a time gap, no doubt about it," Army spokesman Paul Boyce said. "The Army regrets any delay in notifying the family, and we took immediate steps to do so once those facts were determined."
A cadre of high-ranking officers personally apologized to the mother of one soldier for the delay Wednesday, but didn't provide much new information, Nadia McCaffrey said.
"The most stunning thing I saw and heard today was that I told them some of the details that I had almost since the day my son was killed, and they didn't have any idea about it. They didn't know. They had never heard of it," she said.
Soldiers who witnessed the attack have told Nadia McCaffrey two Iraqi patrolmen opened fire on her son's unit. The witnesses also said a third gunman simultaneously drove up to the American unit in a van, climbed onto the vehicle and fired at the Americans, she said.
Iraqi forces who had trained with the Americans had fired at them twice before the incident that killed Patrick McCaffrey, and he had reported it to his superiors, Nadia McCaffrey said.
Tyson's relatives told the AP they were not surprised to learn new details about his death when the Army officers briefed them.
"They never tell the family the truth. You know how politics is," said Ophelia Tyson, grandmother of Andre Tyson.
One of the trainees has been arrested and imprisoned by the Iraqi government, according to Boyce, but he could not say which prison or when he was arrested.
The second trainee is believed to be dead, according to a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public.
A Pentagon spokesman knew of no other incident like the shootings. Boyce said the U.S. military remained confident in its operations with Iraqis.
McCaffrey and Tyson were assigned to the Army National Guard's 579th Engineer Battalion based in Petaluma.