Nine Called 'Responsible' in Tillman Case

Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, Ret., highest ranking general blamed.

ByABC News
January 08, 2009, 12:16 AM

March 24, 2007 — -- ABC News has learned a three-star general will reportedly be among those accused of mishandling the information released about the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman, who killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.

Tillman's death became national news, but for weeks the nation believed incorrectly he had died from enemy fire.

For More on This Story Watch "World News With Charles Gibson" at 6:30 p.m. Monday evening.

The men who were with Tillman that day knew he was killed by friendly fire. A number of high-ranking officers at least had strong indications, according to the Pentagon's report, which is due out on Monday.

But it took several weeks before Tillman's family and the rest of the nation were told the truth.

A senior defense official tells ABC News the Pentagon will hold nine army officers responsible for that mistake, including four generals. The highest ranking is reportedly Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, now retired. Kensinger was commander of U.S. Army Special Operations at the time of Tillman's death.

The Tillman family was initially told that he was killed by enemy fire, even though his fellow soldiers knew that was untrue.

Spc. William Aker told ESPN as part of a documentary, "They shot real close to us and we were waving our hands. … I heard Brian O'Neal screaming at the top of his lungs, 'He's dead, he's dead! Oh, my God, Pat Tillman's dead!'"

"We were told to keep our mouths shut," said Sgt. Jason Parsons.

As the American bullets in his vest later proved, Tillman was killed by fellow rangers, who say their vision was obscured by the harsh glare of the Afghan sun.

The truth came out only after a nationally televised memorial service in May 2004, where Tillman was awarded the Silver Star. The Army says commanders wanted to complete their investigation before telling the Tillmans.

"The largest issue here is one of candor with the public," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. "This is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident."

The nine officers are accused of failing to follow Army procedures and mishandling evidence. That's an apparent reference to the decision to burn Tillman's bloody uniform. But next week the report will be turned over to a court martial convening authority that could charge the officers involved with criminal offenses.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events