Investigation Concludes Friendly Fire Probably Killed Tillman
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2004 Friendly fire probably killed former National Football League star Army Cpl. Pat Tillman in Afghanistan on April 22, U.S. Central Command officials announced in a news release today.
The release said that while an investigation made no specific finding of fault, the results indicate Tillman died "as a probable result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces."
Tillman's unit was ambushed by 10 to 12 enemy fighters with small arms and mortar fire, resulting in an intense firefight lasting about 20 minutes. The CENTCOM release said the incident took place on "very severe and constricted terrain with impaired light conditions." Following initial contact, the release continued, Tillman left his vehicle and moved into position to suppress enemy fire.
"There is an inherent degree of confusion in any firefight," the release said, "particularly when a unit is ambushed, and especially under difficult light and terrain conditions which produces an environment that increases the likelihood of fratricide."
In the release, CENTCOM officials expressed regret and emphasized that the circumstances of Tillman's death do not diminish the value of his service and sacrifice. "Corporal Tillman was shot and killed while responding to enemy fire without regard for his own safety," the news release said. "He focused his efforts on the elimination of enemy forces and the protection of his team members."
Tillman, 27, was deployed with the 75th Ranger Regiment from Fort Benning, Ga. Inspired by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, he left a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals on the table to enlist in the Army and become a Ranger. He held the rank of specialist when he was killed, and received corporal stripes posthumously.