Raheel Siddiqui's Death: Family Says No Record of Him at Hospital

Drill instructors present their new Marines with Eagle, Globe and Anchors during the emblem ceremony Sept. 7, 2013, at the Iwo Jima flag raising statue on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)
Drill instructors present their new Marines with Eagle, Globe and Anchors during the emblem ceremony Sept. 7, 2013, at the Iwo Jima flag raising statue on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)

WASHINGTON -- The family of a Muslim Marine recruit from Taylor who died in a fall at boot camp two years ago said Thursday there is no record of Raheel Siddiqui ever being treated at the hospital where he is said to have died.

Speaking for the family, attorney Shiraz Khan told the Free Press that the master patient index at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, S.C., shows no record of Siddiqui being there, though the Marine Corps has maintained he was transported there and died after first being treated at a local hospital in Beaufort, S.C.

Neither the hospital nor the Marine Corps responded to the report, but the Beaufort County Coroner, J. Edward Allen, told the Free Press that an attending physician at MUSC contacted him after Siddiqui had been transported there and died on the morning of March 18, 2016.

"His death occurred at MUSC," said Allen, who did not have the name of the physician who contacted him

The lack of a record at the Charleston hospital, however, sows greater doubts on the official timeline of events surrounding Siddiqui's death as his family battles the Marine Corps in court over their son's treatment and fights to have the cause of his death changed from suicide.

Siddiqui, a 20-year-old former valedictorian at Truman High School, was less than two weeks into boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., when the Marines said he jumped from a third-story stairwell after being slapped by his drill instructor and ordered to run laps in the barracks. An investigation after his death also said Siddiqui had complained of being hit and had been called a "terrorist" by his drill instructor.

The Marines have said Siddqui was still alive after the fall and was transported to a local hospital in Beaufort before being sent some hours later by helicopter to the facility in Charleston, where he died and an autopsy was performed.

But Siddiqui's death certificate, which was certified by Allen in Beaufort County -- where Parris Island is located -- indicates Siddiqui died within minutes of the fall, even though it lists the time and place of death as an inpatient hospital in Charleston County, S.C., presumably MUSC, where he wouldn't have been taken until hours later.

Allen acknowledged to the Free Press on Thursday that the 5:45 a.m. time of death "may be a typo" and that he died closer to 10:45 a.m. in Charleston.

Siddiqui's family said given the disparities in the records, there is a cloud over what really happened to him and what was done to try to save him, if anything.

"The fact is, official records indicate that Raheel Siddiqui actually died at 5:45 a.m. (at the time of the fall) on March 18, 2016, and since MUSC has no record of Raheel Siddiqui in their index, it is impossible for them to have treated him until 10:06 or 10:45 a.m., as was stated in the autopsy record," Khan said. "The Siddiqui family is outraged."

"The family believes the parties involved must take responsibility," Khan said after seeing Allen's comments to the Free Press. "Let's get the record straight here. Documented facts speak louder than inadmissible hearsay or alleged typos."

The details of Siddiqui's death are crucial to his family, who, since his death, have been attempting to have reversed Allen's finding that Raheel committed suicide. Siddiqui's family has said he never would have killed himself as a committed son and Muslim.

Allen had said he would consider changing the cause of death if evidence suggested otherwise but on Thursday he said he has seen no reason to do so. According to the Marines, Siddiqui had threatened suicide five days before his death but was cleared by base experts as being a low risk of violence to himself and returned to his platoon after he said he made the claim just because he didn't want to be hit anymore.

The Marines have strict rules regarding when and under what conditions drill instructors may put their hands on a recruit.

Siddiqui's family is pursuing a $100-million lawsuit against the Marine Corps, arguing officials botched the handling of Siddiqui's claims of being hit and were aware -- or should have been aware -- of conditions at Parris Island that led to his death.

About 20 personnel have been disciplined in the aftermath of the investigations sparked in part by Siddiqui's death.

Siddiqui's drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, was convicted last November of hazing and abusing recruits, including calling Siddiqui and other Muslim recruits "terrorists" and in one case ordering another Muslim Marine into an industrial dryer and turning it on. Felix was sentenced to 10 years' confinement.

Last month, Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, who led the training battalion to which Siddiqui belonged, pleaded guilty to three charges and was reprimanded, saw his pay reduced by $1,000 a month for five months and was to retire as part of a plea agreement. Kissoon had been accused of wrongly allowing Felix to oversee Siddiqui's platoon while under investigation for other incidents of alleged hazing.

Khan said the level of "inconsistencies" involved in Siddiqui's death called for "an official investigation" and should not be dismissed as "simple mistakes or mere human error."

"These deliberate actions have caused the Siddiqui family irreparable harm and severe emotional distress," he said. "They are simply devastated and are left to question the 'true' final moments of their son's life."

This article is written by Todd Spangler from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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