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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
US army 'let down dead NFL star'
Pat Tillman
Tillman joined up six months after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks
The family of NFL star turned soldier, Pat Tillman have expressed anger at the US army's handling of his death.

"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," his father told the Washington Post.

Tillman died in Afghanistan in 2004 and for weeks afterwards, US army officials said he was killed by enemy fire.

They are said to have known he had been accidentally shot by US troops, but failed to inform his family of this.

'Poster boy'

Tillman's parents said they believe the military concocted the story that their son had been killed in a hail of enemy fire to stimulate national pride.

The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterwards is disgusting
Mary Tillman

"They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realised that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a hand basket if the truth about the death got out. They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman Senior said.

Tillman turned his back on a contract with the Arizona Cardinals American football team, worth $3.6m (2m), when he joined the US army six months after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

He enlisted in the US Rangers alongside his brother Kevin - a former professional baseball player with the Cleveland Indians - and both were subsequently despatched to Afghanistan as part of the US war on terror.

"Pat had high ideals about the country, that's why he did what he did. The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect," his mother Mary Tillman said.

Uniform burnt

Tillman died on 22 April 2004 when his US Rangers patrol was hit by gunfire as it passed along a canyon road in Khost province, south of Kabul, at twilight.

Memorial for Pat Tillman
Fans flocked to pay tribute to the star when he died

The 27-year-old was hit by a hail of bullets, which army officials quickly claimed came from the enemy - a story they stuck to for weeks afterwards.

But according to a recent US military investigation, army chiefs were informed that Tillman's death was the result of "friendly fire" within days of his death, but chose not to reveal this fact to his family or friends.

The true details of his death were not made known until 29 May 2004, weeks after a televised memorial service in which fans paid tribute to the man hailed as an "American hero".

"The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting," his mother said.

Tillman's uniform and body armour were burned the day after he was fatally shot.

At the time, officials claimed his uniform had been burned because it presented a biohazard. However, investigators now say his clothes should have been preserved as evidence.

The military investigation, led by Brig Gen Gary Jones of the Army Special Operations Command, was carried out at the request of Tillman family, who wanted to know why the uniform was burned and why information was withheld.




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