Lawmaker Demands Details about Marine Recruit's Death at Parris Island

Marine recruits at Parris Island. An incident there on March 18 that involved the death of a recruit is being investigated by NCIS. (Getty Images)
Marine recruits at Parris Island. An incident there on March 18 that involved the death of a recruit is being investigated by NCIS. (Getty Images)

A Michigan congresswoman has written a letter to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, asking for a detailed timeline and more information about the circumstances surrounding the death of a recruit at the Marines' boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, last month. In an April 4 letter, Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, called for a "prompt and unbiased inquiry" into the March 18 death of Raheel Siddiqui, 20, of Taylor, Michigan. Officials with Naval Criminal Investigative Service told media outlets there was no apparent foul play in Siddiqui's death, which was the result of a nearly 40-foot fall in a stairwell, according to reports. Dingell appeared to suggest that Siddiqui's Muslim faith may have played a role in the events leading to his death, telling Neller that "some are concerned" that hazing may have been involved in the recruit's death. "He was a young man of the Muslim faith who loved his country and wanted to serve it and protect the freedoms for which it stands.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time," Dingell said. "It is our shared responsibility to ensure there is a prompt and unbiased inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death."

She asked that Neller provide the following:

* A timeline for when NCIS is expected to complete its "thorough and comprehensive" investigation into Siddiqui's death.

* A commitment from the Marine Corps to preserve all relevant records relating to Siddiqui's death, including medical and autopsy records, and to share them with Congress and the family when appropriate.

* Information about the firing of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, a recruit battalion commander at Parris Island, who "was relieved of his command one day prior to … Siddiqui's death," including information about Kissoon's interactions with Siddiqui and any concerns about his sensitivity with recruits. * Whether the Marine Corps has received any indication that hazing occurred in Siddiqui's death and whether the Marine Corps has any policies to prevent and deter hazing from happening at boot camp. Notably, Parris Island officials have said that Kissoon's relief stemmed from a February investigation into specific acts of misconduct and had nothing to do with Siddiqui's death. A Parris Island spokesman, Capt. Gregory Carroll, said the decision to relieve Kissoon came March 17, but he was not actually fired until March 31. Siddiqui's family told Detroit TV news station WDIV 4 that they had been told Siddiqui jumped to his death after passing out during a drill and being awakened by a drill instructor. A casualty report they received and discussed with the station said Siddiqui had told his senior drill instructor he wanted to quit and had threatened to commit suicide. Family members, though, expressed skepticism that Siddiqui, a motivated recruit, would take his own life. That news report was later unpublished at the request of the family and they have since declined to speak with other news outlets. Dingell asked Neller to return answers to her questions no later than April 18, suggesting she planned to follow up with a congressional investigation. "Answers to these questions will give the family comfort during these difficult times and will help Congress conduct oversight of this incident," she said. --Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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