SAN FRANCISCO - A California congressman urged the Pentagon on Tuesday to complete its criminal investigation into the friendly fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan after quitting the NFL to join the U.S. Army Rangers.
Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents the San Jose region where Tillman grew up, faxed a letter to acting Defense Department Inspector General Thomas Gimble. The inspector general announced in March that he would open a criminal probe into Tillman's April 2004 death.
Although the Pentagon has never publicly revealed the scope of its investigation, Army officials have told The Associated Press privately that it focuses on possible negligent homicide charges against fellow troops.
Multiple investigations have failed to account for Tillman's April 22, 2004, death, Honda said.
"Whether intentional or unintentional, the Army's missteps have exacerbated the pain and sorrow felt by the Tillman family over their loss," Honda wrote. "The legacy of a fallen warrior, resolution for family members on the home front, and the confidence of our heroic service members in their civilian and military superiors require, at long last, an immediate conclusion to the investigation."
The Army conducted three inquiries into Tillman's death even before the inspector general's current probe, which also covers allegations of a coverup.
The negligent-homicide probe was the outgrowth of a review begun in August 2005 of the third and most sweeping of previous investigations. The Tillman family has been promised completion many times, only to see repeated delays, Honda said.
The inspector general's office now projects the current investigation will be done by December, Honda said.
"Justice deferred is justice denied, and justice for Pat Tillman and his family has been inexcusably denied," Honda said in a statement that accompanied the letter.
"Despite multiple flawed attempts by the Army to determine precisely how Pat was killed, and numerous postponements of DoD investigations into the Army's mistakes, Corporal Tillman's family is no nearer to closure than the day he died."
A spokesman for the inspector general said that the office has a policy of not commenting on investigations or setting timetables for their completion.
There is growing talk among lawmakers of opening an independent congressional investigation into Tillman's death if the inspector general's probe is inadequate, or if Gimble does not release his findings.