American hero Pat Tillman's death has been shrouded in deceit since day. Each time the Army has taken a closer look at the events surrounding the tragedy, the story seems to change. Today the awful truth behind Tillman's death became a little clearer.
Tillman's parents were first told their son died fighting the enemy in the Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. They knew they were being lied to. Later, his death was termed an "accident." Still, the Tillmans knew better.
Now it turns out that the former NFL star was shot down by men in his own platoon, in what the some are terming "gross negligence," according to a report put together by CNN using documents obtained from the military.
What really happend?
On April 22, 2004, Tillman's platoon was on the hunt for either Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters. As fate would have it, their Humvee broke down. This lead to the platoon being split in two, as one group - Tillman's - forged ahead, the second group - including Tillman's younger brother Kevin - trailed with the crippled Humvee being towed by a local truck.
The order to split up came via radio from a commander far away, over the objections of the platoon leader. The commander wanted no delays.
Tillman's group moved safely through a deep canyon. Unbeknownst to them, the second group was 30 minutes behind. It was there that the second group was ambushed from above. To make matters worse, the two groups had loss radio contact.
Tillman led his group - including an Afghan soldier - back on a rescue machine, seeking cover on an overlooking ridge. From there Tillman could see a second Humvee and four armed soldiers pull out from behind the disabled Humvee. The men below started firing blindly in every direction. They would later say they thought they were surrounded.
A soldier alongside Tillman described the events in a sworn testimony.
"A GMV [vehicle] with a .50-cal rolled into our sight and started to unload on top of us," he said.
"Tillman and I were yelling 'Stop! Stop! Friendlies! Friendlies! Cease fire!' But they couldn't hear us."
The driver became confused when he saw the Afghan next to Tillman. He soon realized they were firing on fellow Rangers.
"I yelled twice 'We have friendlies on top!'" said the driver. "The crew must have not heard me because my vehicle opened fired on them. I screamed, 'No!' and then yelled repeatedly several times to cease fire. No one heard me."
Desperate to stop the onslaught, Tillman uncorked a smoke grenade to signal that he too was a Ranger. It seemed to work, the shooting stopping long enough for Tillman to stand and stretch, according to his fellow soldier.
"We thought the battle was over," said the soldier next to Tillman. "So we were relieved, getting up stretching out and talking with one another when I heard some 5.56 rounds coming from the vehicle. They started firing again. That's when I hit the deck and started praying."
Tillman wasn't so lucky. Three rounds found their way into him.
"I know this because I could hear the pain in his voice as he called out: 'Cease fire! Friendlies! I am Pat (expletive) Tillman damn it!'" the soldier said. "He said this over and over again until he stopped."
That's when the soldier heard a gruesome noise.
"I heard what sounded like water pouring down," he said. "I then looked over at my side to see a river of blood coming down from where he was. I had blood all over my shoulder from him and when I looked at him, I saw his head was gone."
Official report pending
Col. Joseph G. Curtin, a U.S. Army spokesman, swears justrice will be served.
"The bottom line is we will go where the truth leads us," said Curtin. "We will get the answers to the best of our abilities."
Mary Tillman has been haunted by questions about her son's death ever since she read the first "official" report.
"There have been so many discrepancies so far that it's hard to know what to believe," Mary Tillman said back in September, 2005. "There are too many murky details."
In March, after yet the launch of the latest report, her husband, Patrick Tillman Sr., remained skeptical.
"I think it's another step," he said at the time. "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?"
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