20 Marines face prosecution or discipline in recruit's death

Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui died March 18 at Parris Island. His death has been ruled a suicide, which his family has disputed.

Story highlights

  • Drill instructors verbally and physically abused recruits, investigations find
  • Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui died March 18; his death has been ruled a suicide

(CNN)Twenty Marines have been identified for possible military justice or administrative discipline in the death of a recruit at the Marine Corps training facility at Parris Island, South Carolina, the Marines said Thursday.

"Commanders and senior enlisted advisers at the series, company, battalion and regimental level were relieved in the wake of Recruit (Raheel) Siddiqui's death and a number of drill instructors have been suspended," the Marine statement said. "Twenty recruit training regiment personnel have been identified for possible military justice or administrative action."
Three "command-level investigations" concluded Siddiqui committed suicide, the statement said. But Siddiqui's family has told CNN affiliate WDIV they strongly doubt their son killed himself.
    The Marine statement didn't provide details on the death. The 20-year-old from Michigan died March 18, not long after arriving at Parris Island, reported the Marine Times, a publication not affiliated with the Marine Corps.

    Investigation found physical and verbal abuse

    The Marines statement said investigations found drill instructors physically and verbally abused recruits and that one drill instructor was improperly assigned for duty while being investigated for allegations of assault and hazing. Investigators found inconsistencies in how the Marines responded to suicidal statements, the Marines said.
    The Marines recommended a number of changes, including mandatory suspension of personnel investigated for abusing or hazing recruits and increased officer oversight of training.
    Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said he supported the recommendations.
    "When America's men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them," he said. "We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion. Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.
    "We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui, and we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again."

    Dingell to visit Parris Island

    Siddiqui's parents are reviewing the findings and deciding their next steps, said Shiraz Khan, the family lawyer.
    U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan met Thursday with Neller, according to a statement from her office.
    "Private Siddiqui was a son, brother and class valedictorian who believed this country represented freedom and opportunity," Dingell said. "As a young Muslim man, he truly understood the value of freedom of religion, and all he wanted was to defend the ideals our nation holds dear.
    "This weekend, I will visit Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to see firsthand the recruit training process, meet with the new leadership and learn about the changes that are being implemented to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again."