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Army orders criminal investigation into death of Pat Tillman

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon has directed the Army to launch a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding former NFL star Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan in 2004.

The Defense Department's office of the Inspector General ordered the Army's Criminal Investigative Division to see whether Tillman's death resulted from negligent homicide, a defense official said Saturday. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the probe, which was first reported by CNN Saturday afternoon, is just beginning.

Tillman, 27, was serving in the Army's 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment when he was shot and killed while on patrol in southern Afghanistan in April 2004.

The Army initially reported that Tillman was killed by Taliban fighters during a firefight, but an investigation later determined that fellow Rangers had shot and killed him, thinking he was an enemy fighter firing at them.

Tillman's family was unhappy with the initial investigation, and they demanded to know why they were not told immediately that fellow soldiers might have killed him. They also wanted to know why his uniform and body armor were burned the day after he was killed.

A Pentagon official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said that Brig. Gen. Gary Jones requested in August 2005 that the Pentagon's inspector general undertake an independent review of his initial investigation after Tillman's family complained that they weren't satisfied with its findings.

The scope of the investigation has yet to be determined, but one of the issues that will be examined is whether Tillman's death was negligent homicide, the official said.

A second Pentagon official, however, cautioned that the Army had only been asked to conduct an investigation into Tillman's death.

"The Army owes it to the family to answer their questions, as we would treat any family who has lost a loved one in this conflict," said Col. Joe Curtin, an Army spokesman.

The Army's Criminal Investigative Division was ordered to reopen the case on Friday, said Paul Boyce, another Army spokesman. Tillman's family was also notified on Friday, Boyce said.

The Army's initial investigation found that fellow soldiers knew at the time of the shooting that Tillman had died as a result of friendly fire. A U.S. military official told Knight Ridder that their superiors knew within hours that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, and the report found that Tillman's superiors covered up the circumstances of his death and concealed the truth from Tillman's brother Kevin, also an Army Ranger who was serving in the same unit.

Several weeks after a memorial service in Tillman's hometown of San Jose, Calif., the Army announced that friendly fire had caused Tillman's death, not enemy fire as initially reported. Top Army officials knew at the time of the memorial service that he'd been killed by fellow troops, the Army's initial investigation found.

But the investigation found no evidence that Army officers intended to hide the truth.

Tillman gave up a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He was posthumously awarded a Silver Star.

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Pat Tillman

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