Ranger Alleges Cover-Up in Tillman Death
Tillman Family, Lynch Address House Panel
By SCOTT LINDLAW and ERICA WERNER
WASHINGTON (April 24) – An Army Ranger who was with Pat Tillman when he died by friendly fire said Tuesday he was told by a higher-up to conceal that information from Tillman’s family. “I was ordered not to tell them,” U.S. Army Specialist Bryan O’Neal told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
He said he was given the order by then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon. Pat Tillman’s brother Kevin was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened, but didn’t see it. O’Neal said Bailey told him specifically not to tell Kevin Tillman that the death was friendly fire rather than heroic engagement with the enemy. “He basically just said, ‘Do not let Kevin know, he’s probably in a bad place knowing that his brother’s dead,'” O’Neal said. He added that Bailey made clear he would “get in trouble” if he told. Kevin Tillman was not in the hearing room when O’Neal spoke.
In earlier testimony, Kevin Tillman accused the military of “intentional falsehoods” and “deliberate and careful misrepresentations” in portraying Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan as the result of heroic engagement with the enemy instead of friendly fire.There was additional testimony from Jessica Lynch, then an Army private, who was badly injured when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. She was subsequently rescued by American troops from an Iraqi hospital but the tale of her ambush was changed into a story of heroism on her part. Still hampered by her injuries, Lynch walked slowly to the witness table and took a seat alongside Tillman’s family members. “The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales,” Lynch said.