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Army to open criminal probe of Tillman death

Friendly fire blamed in death in Afghanistan of former NFL player

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

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An earlier investigation found that Cpl. Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Army will launch a criminal investigation to determine whether former NFL player Cpl. Pat Tillman's 2004 death from friendly fire in Afghanistan was negligent homicide, CNN learned on Saturday.

The Pentagon's inspector general directed the Army Criminal Investigative Division to conduct the probe, sources said.

Initial reports after his death said Tillman, 27, was shot and killed by Taliban forces during an ambush on April 22, 2004. An investigation later found that fellow soldiers shot Tillman, thinking he was part of an enemy force firing at them. (Watch a general explain why more investigation is warranted -- 2:32)

Tillman's family demanded to know why his uniform and body armor were burned a day after he was killed and why they were not immediately told he might have been killed by fellow soldiers.

His family was notified Friday about the investigation.

"To the Tillman family, the fact that we have not had 100 percent completion of all of the things that need to be looked at is regrettable," Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Sunday.

"Second, the fact that as the prior investigations have been reviewed and folks have found there are questions yet to be answered and therefore the investigation is ongoing, I think is a healthy thing."

A 2005 report from Brig. Gen. Gary Jones contained sworn statements from soldiers involved in the incident who said they burned the items because they had taken pictures of the scene, walked around and knew how Tillman had been killed.

Initially, Tillman's blood-covered uniform and armor were said to have been destroyed because they were considered a biohazard.

Jones' report said the soldiers reasoned "they knew in their heart of hearts what had happened, and we were not going to lie about it. So we weren't thinking about proof or anything."

After looking into the previous investigations into Tillman's death, the Pentagon's inspector general determined the Army never went through the process of conducting a criminal probe.

The investigation process will not necessarily result in any charges against U.S. soldiers.

Two years before his death, Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to serve in the military. He was posthumously awarded a Silver Star.

Tillman was a member of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Lewis, Washington. His brother, Kevin, trained with him and served in the same unit.

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