Was Pat Tillman murdered?

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors — whose names were blacked out — said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Ultimately, the Pentagon did conduct a criminal investigation, and asked Tillman’s comrades whether he was disliked by his men and whether they had any reason to believe he was deliberately killed. The Pentagon eventually ruled that Tillman’s death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident.

The medical examiners’ suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Among other information contained in the documents:

• In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop “sniveling.”

• Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

• The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman’s death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn’t recall details of his actions.

• No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene — no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.

The Pentagon and the Bush administration have been criticized in recent months for lying about the circumstances of Tillman’s death. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers.

With questions lingering about how high in the Bush administration the deception reached, Congress is preparing for yet another hearing next week.

The Pentagon is separately preparing a new round of punishments, including a stinging demotion of retired Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., 60, according to military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the punishments under consideration have not been made public.

In more than four hours of questioning by the Pentagon inspector general’s office in December 2006, Kensinger repeatedly contradicted other officers’ testimony, and sometimes his own. He said on some 70 occasions that he did not recall something.

At one point, he said: “You’ve got me really scared about my brain right now. I’m really having a problem.”

Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, who has long suggested that her son was deliberately killed by his comrades, said she is still looking for answers and looks forward to the congressional hearings next week.

“Nothing is going to bring Pat back. It’s about justice for Pat and justice for other soldiers. The nation has been deceived,” she said.

The documents show that a doctor who autopsied Tillman’s body was suspicious of the three gunshot wounds to the forehead. The doctor said he took the unusual step of calling the Army’s Human Resources Command and was rebuffed. He then asked an official at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division if the CID would consider opening a criminal case.

“He said he talked to his higher headquarters and they had said no,” the doctor testified.

Also according to the documents, investigators pressed officers and soldiers on a question Mrs. Tillman has been asking all along.

“Have you, at any time since this incident occurred back on April 22, 2004, have you ever received any information even rumor that Cpl. Tillman was killed by anybody within his own unit intentionally?” an investigator asked then-Capt. Richard Scott.

Scott, and others who were asked, said they were certain the shooting was accidental.

Investigators also asked soldiers and commanders whether Tillman was disliked, whether anyone was jealous of his celebrity, or if he was considered arrogant. They said Tillman was respected, admired and well-liked.

The documents also shed new light on Tillman’s last moments.

It has been widely reported by the AP and others that Spc. Bryan O’Neal, who was at Tillman’s side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting “Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat fucking Tillman, damn it!” again and again.

But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed.

The chaplain said that O’Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman’s side, “crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your fucking mouth? God’s not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling …”


Associated Press reporters Scott Lindlaw in Las Vegas and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this story.


  1. Ardie

    Another problem that the AP just recently reported, there was “No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene – no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.” Couple this with the fact that Tillman was standing when he was shot, this would further confirm that a fire fight wasn’t going on since keeping one’s head down is the usual reaction. I also suspect that Pat didn’t have his helmet on. One more thing. Pat would not be moving his head in a friendly situation, especially with his comrades. A three round burst from 10 yards would then have been doable.

    The question that I am curious to find an answer for, is how much did the brass know about Pat’s views on Iraq before the fratricide? Pat seemed like a hard charger to me: a guy who once he felt he was right, wasn’t about to back down.

    If the brass at the Pentagon had already got wind of Pat’s views about Iraq and his determination to expose the underbelly of Bush’s phony war with Noam Chomsky sitting by his side, surely this would be cause for alarm. Thus, something had to be done to silence Tillman. Like in the movie, A Few Good Men, a ‘Code Red’ was ordered.

  2. SEAL

    I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened. I know very little about Tillman or his record or his relationship with his mates. But I do know something about war and firefights. I’ve seen a lot of “friendly fire” mistakes, very few of which were or seemed deliberate. I never saw one result in a murder charge. I have seen involved personnel transferred. Once, I transferred a man out of one of my units to avoid any further accidents even though I knew for a fact that it was an accident.

    Relationships formed during prolonged combat conditions are unique and often “family” in nature. Squad leaders and COs understand that “payback” may be a mindset in some cases and will take steps such as reassignment to avoid it.

    The military is very protective of the individual’s family as well as themself. They are not going to tell them “Gee, we are sorry but somebody goofed and shot your son by mistake.” That is “killed in action.” That is the truth and better for everyone. Such instances occur more often than anyone cares to admit. Such is a fact of life in war.

    One thing is obvious. They tried to use Tillman’s celebrity to promote their war by making a hero out of him. Like everything else this bunch does, they botched it. I’m continually amazed by how bad they are at lying and covering up their lies. Usually, dishonest people are pretty damn good at their dishonesty. I’m also surprised at how they have been able to influence so many career military people to lie and support their total dishonesty about everything involved with this so-called war. The military commanders, above all, know the exact nature of this debacale. Yet, they have repeatedly allowed themselves to be served up as scapegoats. This is not the military I served in.

    If Tillman had a three shot grouping in the forehead as described, there is something wrong. That is virtually impossible unless the target is immobile regardless of distance. The “bullets” do not impact simultaneously and each will cause the target to move. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of wounds and never saw one with a grouping that precise in battle. Those involved in the misrepresentation of Tillman’s death know this. I wonder at how they thought the medical report would not come to light. That makes me think there was very heavy pressure applied to them to write up such a phony report. They must have felt secure that the authority above was so high there would be no questions asked. That indicates that it came from Rumsfeld. Otherwise, it is hard for me to envision a general placing his career on the line like this. That’s my view from 32 years in the sevice.

  3. andrew

    If there is even 50% chance of this bearing out as true, then every person in any branch of the military is in very grave danger, and I don’t mean from getting shot by Iraq soldiers. I have long suspected some cr*p like this;even so it’s still chilling to see it in print.

    I have friends who have teenage children, and will do everything I can to help them convince their kids to NEVER put their signature on that dotted line, starting with JROTC.

    I have the opt out forms, and will be glad to share them with anyone who wants to opt their kids out of military recruitment in school. They are in Adobe Acrobat form, so I would have to send them by e-mail.

  4. KayInMaine


    …he was murdered. Why? Could it be because he had witnessed atrocities committed by his “buddies” while over there? Could it be because he was changing his mind about Bush’s illegal invasion & occupation of Iraq? We’ll never know because Tillman’s personal diary was taken and destroyed after he was murdered by one of his own.

    There is a rumor going around that Tillman was also thinking about joining the Kerry team upon returning to the states. Was this the catalyst for his own soldiers to turn on him by fragging? Could be.

    Nonetheless, the Bush White House tried to cover up this murder. Disgusting.


  5. ekaton

    SEAL, You are a priceless asset to the CHB endeavor in my humble opinion.

    — Kent Shaw

  6. Paolo

    The Bush Crime Syndicate had this good soldier, Pat Tillman, assassinated because he was about to go public with his anti-war views. He joined the armed forces on the illusion that he would be “serving his country.”

    But the old saying, “you can’t cheat an honest man” applies here. It wasn’t long before Tillman realized he was “serving”, not his country, but a bunch of fat, cynical, manipulating politicians.

    Having staked a heavy dose of propaganda capital on the story of the millionaire football player who gave it all up to “serve his country,” the Bush Crime Syndicate could hardly afford to let Tillman speak his mind publicly (and, heaven forbid! support Kerry’s candidacy).

    So, he was “offed.” Then, he was made the subject of yet more “propaganda capital” by weaving fake stories of his having died while heroically leading his men into battle against the dreaded “terrorists.”

    God, this administration makes me want to heave.

  7. SEAL

    I forget that very few people outside the military have any understanding or knowledge of weapons and their use. Even those who served in Nam and Gulf War I are not up to date unless they made the effort to be. The weapons we are using in Iraq today are much better. More reliable and versitile. One of the commenters had pointed out that he thought the M-16 could be set to fire in 3 shot bursts which might explain the close grouping of the wounds in Tilman’s head.

    In my previous comment about the 3 shot grouping the medics described in Tilman’s forehead I failed to point out the purpose for setting the rifle to fire in bursts rather than single fire. That is to cover more target area with each shot. In other words, not to have a close grouping of projectiles at the target but more of a spray pattern. That increases the odds of a hit and perhaps a multiple hit.

    Unlike the rifle of old which was heavy and fired a larger caliber that would take out the target with a single hit, what we use today is lighter with less impact power. Generally it takes more than one “slug” to render the enemy harmless unless the first one hits something vital like the head or heart.

    My point is that the chances of Tilman having 3 holes in his head as described by the medical examiners under combat conditions is so remote as to be impossible. The only way I could visualize it would be 3 deliberate single shots at fairly close range. But that also makes me wonder – why 3? An experienced combat vet would fire maybe two, but 3? That’s overkill. Nothing adds up to a friendly fire episode in my view.

  8. CheckerboardStrangler

    Now might be a very good time to haul Lt. Col. Kauzlarich before the investigators and before Congress. If you remember, Lt. Col. Kauzlarich, a very self-righteous conservative holy roller, made some rather smarmy comments until it was learned that he might have had a role in the coverup.
    Perhaps Lt. Col. Kauzlarich ordered the Code Red.

  9. Carl Nemo

    Yo traffic101…

    I was somewhat curious as to why someone would post a comment to a stale post of almost 1.5 years ago?

    Your hot link to Security Systems; ie., SPAM tactic isn’t welcome on CHB.

    With the downturn in the economy, few people and I mean very few people would even pursue such SPAM advertising concerning home security. They’re haulin’ their remaining valuables to the local pawn shop… : |

    The site host, Doug Thompson mentioned that people were posting such advertising and now I’ve witnessed an example first hand.

    Carl Nemo **==

  10. Carl Nemo

    * “The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman’s death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn’t recall details of his actions.”

    Whether it’s the testimony of crooked CEO’s, AG’s of the U.S., now even General grade military officers, they all seem to suffer from this “I don’t recall syndrome”. They are all acting like cheap-butt mobsters being grilled by a Congressional sub-committee.

    I guess it’s a reflection of our nation’s leadership at this point in history and has been glaringly so since the days of Richard Nixon and every President’s administration onward.

    Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., 60, now retired needed to be taken behind closed doors by his theatre commander and told in no uncertain terms that he best develop an excellent memory rather quickly or he’ll be leaving the service as a E1 rather than an O9. Maybe I’m blessed with an extraordinary memory, but I remember just about everything that’s happened to me in my entire life since I was a kid. I’ll cut, route-step aged civilians some slack concerning failing memories, but it scares the crap out of me that our current military would promote some guy to Lt. General rank and this guys shuffling about not being able to remember if he took a shower that day, other than the fact he might smell his own stench.

    I suggest the joint services start doing a massive memory screening of all senior officers and if they can’t cut the mustard, retire them out asap. Btw, as of January 1, 2006, a “General Can’t Recall” would have been drawing $12,525.60 per month.

    Carl Nemo **==

  11. Helen Rainier

    This is certainly a most interesting revelation — THREE Army medical examiners questioned the true cause of death and it doesn’t merit further questioning?

    If I remember correctly, the official version was that this “friendly fire” incident occurred in the early evenin or early morning hours. If that is correct, how likely is it that Tillman could have ended up with a 3-shot group in the face “from a distance” as I recall the story went? The fact that this could happen during diminished light makes it even more difficult to be?

    By and large, weapons qualification happens under optimum conditions — daylight hours and on stationery or pop-up targets.

    The official story is smelling fishier and fishier.

  12. lexiedogmom

    Lexie Homewood
    If this investigation pans out, it will be just one more horrific deception during the run of this war.

  13. ekaton

    Some M16’s have a three position lever that allows you to set it for single-round firing (semi-auto), three round bursts, and full auto. Three close rounds in the forehead implies, to me, that he was shot at short range with a three round burst. Who knows? We weren’t there. Maybe he had it coming. Maybe he had previously been putting his men in danger for no good reason. We weren’t there. Just playing devil’s advocate for no good reason. It should not have happened.

    — Kent Shaw

  14. The Dogfather

    The Dogfather,

    If there is one bastion of integrity left in the United States, I would have guessed that it is in the Armed Forces. Apparently I was wrong. They have no more integrity than the government, the corporations or the churches. So, I have a great idea: let’s try to pin Pat Tillman’s murder on O. J. Simpson, Michael Vick, Karl Rove and/or Dick Cheney. Even if we manage to get only one conviction, America itself will be better off getting one or another of these scumbags off the street.

  15. Ardie

    Pat Tillman was a good soldier. He had already done one tour in Iraq. But he came to detest the war in Iraq, objecting to it strongly. He planned to use his prestige as a soldier and as a football star to expose the Bush Administration’s lies. He planned to connect with Noam Chomsky.

    There was no fire fight when he got killed–at least no evidence of one. He received three closely spaced rounds in the forehand in an area the size of a half-dollar from about 10 yards away. Evidence was destroyed on specious grounds.

    This incident is somewhat reminiscent of the movie, “A Few Good Men” which involved the matter of an extra-judicial execution by fellow Marines which had been ordered by Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) known as a “Code Red”.

    It is in the realm of probability, which is more than possibility, that a Code Red was ordered on Pat Tillman. Who ordered it is the unanswered question. But given Tillman’s notoriety, he posed a major threat to the rationalizations of the Bush Administration. It is also probable that the order to execute him came directly from the White House given its lawless record.

  16. ekaton


    You have responded with more eloquence than I could ever hope to muster. Thanks.

    — Kent Shaw aka ekaton (don’t ask, ok?)

  17. adamrussell

    Is this an indication of the culture of our military or an isolated incident? Murder and a widespread coverup of murder.

  18. bryan mcclellan

    Just more of the same from our government folks.Recently for the 6th time in 16 yrs. congress ordered the V.A. to compensate my fellow Viet Vets for exposure to agent orange. Still no benefits have been forthcoming and we know the song and dance well,it’s called the D.C. two step.You dance for us,then we’ll step all over you.Smirk didn’t invent signing statements, he just refined the process.Nothing this government does surprises me anymore,enacting laws and passing out directives only to ignore them as soon as they come up with a new way to distract is their bread and butter. Was the man executed for his views we will never know,is it in the realm of possibility, ABSOLUTELY……..