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Report: Evidence destroyed after Tillman's death

Yet investigation finds no intent to hide truth

From Mike Mount

Cpl. Pat Tillman was killed by fellow U.S. soldiers last year in Afghanistan.
Pat Tillman

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new Army report on the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last year concluded that his uniform and body armor were burned a day after he was killed -- and before investigators had determined he was shot by his fellow soldiers.

The yet-to-be-released investigation results, first reported by the Washington Post, concludes that the burning of the clothes and armor amounted to destruction of evidence.

Initial reports of Tillman's death on April 22, 2004, said he was shot by Taliban forces during an ambush. An investigation would later reveal that fellow soldiers shot Tillman, thinking he was part of an enemy force firing at them.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that top U.S. commanders, including Gen. John P. Abizaid of U.S. Central Command, were told that Tillman's death occurred by fratricide days before a nationally televised memorial service was held for him.

Nonetheless, Tillman's family was not notified of that until May 29, 2004, when the first investigation was completed. That was nearly four weeks after the service.

The new report, by Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, was done at the behest of Tillman's family members, who wanted to know why his uniform was burned, and why they were not immediately told he might have been killed by fellow soldiers.

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

Yet the Jones report contains 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.

In the new report, 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."

Army investigators now say his clothes should have been preserved as evidence.

Army officials said the Jones report concludes that the Tillman family should have been told at once that "friendly fire" was suspected. The report, however, found no official intent by military commanders to hide the truth.

Tillman gave up a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger after the attacks of September 11, 2001. He was posthumously awarded a Silver Star.

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