WASHINGTON (March 5, 2006) -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff promised the family of former NFL player Pat Tillman that investigators will examine all the facts surrounding his death in Afghanistan.
Gen. Peter Pace said the Army was launching a criminal investigation into the April 2004 death of Tillman -- an Army Ranger shot by fellow soldiers in what previous military reviews had concluded was an accident -- because the Defense Department's inspector general determined it was an additional step that needed to be taken.
A Pentagon official told The Associated Press that a criminal investigation would focus on possible charges of negligent homicide. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the new investigation had not formally begun.
Investigators want to look into whether fire by the friendly forces was "fire that should have been going on or was someone potentially firing a weapon when they should not have been," Pace said.
"Although there's no evidence that there was criminal activity, the investigators did not specifically look at whether or not there was criminal activity, criminal activity being when Cpl. Tillman was killed by friendly fire," Pace said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Tillman's parents have been highly critical of the Army for its handling of questions about their son's death. Reached by The Washington Post, Patrick Tillman Sr. remained skeptical.
"I think it's another step," he said. "But if you send investigators to reinvestigate an investigation that was falsified in the first place, what do you think you're going to get?"
The scope of the new investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Command had not yet been determined in detail, Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin said. Curtin said the inspector general's office reviewed the matter at the Army's request and concluded a criminal probe was warranted.
Pace responded only indirectly when asked whether Tillman's case, which will now undergo a fifth formal investigation, had been mishandled. "Folks look at them to make sure they have complete information," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "If there's not complete information, they send it back."
Tillman, 27, played for the Arizona Cardinals but left the NFL to join the Army after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Tillman 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 had 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.