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Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part I - How it Begins
Looking around the internet, one of the main questions continues to circle around the three wounds that Pat Tillman received to his "forehead" as indicated by the ME. His report and interview also indicates that the three wounds were within a 2" to 3" grouping.
Most of the internet questions seem to be generated from the idea that there was one shooter. Also, from the perceived wisdom that a fully automatic weapon could not place three rounds in a limited area. Finally, that the movement of a body, either from already being in motion (ie, walking, running, standing up or sitting down) or put in motion from a GSW is looked at as effectively canceling the ability of a shooter from placing rounds into the same location. One commenter said that, if he could know the number of shots fired in a general location, the probability of more than one round striking the same target could increase.
The first question cannot be full answered as the rounds that actually killed Tillman are not available for ballistic testing nor can be evaluated to see if they are even different calibers. Keeping in mind that this was a battle scene in hostile territory, that forensic scientists for such battle field analysis are not immediately available to secure a location and search (as one would expect in a civilian setting) and that the wounds were such that the bullets nor fragments were contained within the cranial cavity, it should not be surprising that the question remains unanswered except for the inconclusive testimony of those involved. Although, the CID did review the death site and was able to evaluate the trajectory of the incoming rounds based on the impact to the surrounding area.
The remaining questions are also best answered by the examination of the "kill zone" that was conducted by several groups including the final CID in March 2006. The following images are low grade black and white images from the PDF files provided by the FOIA. These are found here, pages 193 and 194. I have enhanced one of the photographs by simply adding color indicators where the black and white indicators were on the originals (which can be viewed at the above link; click images to enlarge).
In this photo, the "D" marks where "Thanos", the AMF attached to Tillman's fire team, was located at his death, head pointing down hill. The red pin points indicate small arms impact points on the rock just to the right and in front of Tillman's final position indicated by the "A". Note the tight grouping of rounds that impacted the rock. This would indicate that the shooter or shooters had the position "dialed in" and had excellent weapons control. There are twenty two (22) impact points on the rock, not including the wounds on both "Thanos" and Tillman. Tillman received between four and 10 rounds directly. The final number is unknown due to the unavailability of his body armor and MOLLE for examination. This number is based on the fragment wounds he received in his upper extremities from the damaged flash bang and the eyewitness that had examined Tillman's MOLLE and body armor at the base before it was destroyed as well as the three known wounds to his head. Besides at least one round in the flash bang and three in the forehead, the eyewitness believes he saw up to seven (7) rounds in Tillman's body armor. The front plate was "shattered" (pages 147-152).
Of particular interest should be the ground around this rock and the rock to left (right in the photo) with the black cross. This ground is raised behind the rock indicating that it gave minimal cover. O'Neal was lying prone behind the rock. Tillman was found in a "sitting" position, his legs straight out in front of him, torso leaning against the rock with the "X" and head slumped forward.
Based on the limited cover and Tillman's position, it is unlikely he was kneeling or standing at the time he was killed. He was most likely lying prone between the two rocks and then sat up to throw the smoke grenade when he was shot. Again, review of injuries and known equipment indicates that he received multiple rounds, possibly "walked" into his final position. Other rounds impacted a flash bang he was carrying on his MOLLE, the MOLLE itself (worn on the upper body over the "vest" or body armor) and his "forehead". The rock behind him most likely maintained his upright position as he was struck. [update: according to O'Neal's interview(page 428), they received fire for under a minute in sparse cover; Tillman decided to "puff smoke"; firing ceased for a few moments; both determined the danger was over and stood up; they waved their hands trying to indicate they were "friendlies"; firing resumed; both dropped prone on the ground, O'Neal behind the rock and Tillman beside him (possibly laying on his back on the incline beside the rock making more sense of the diagram)[update to the update: O'Neal later says that the last time he saw Tillman alive, he was on one knee]; O'Neal and Tillman exchanged a few words, O'Neal said he was praying, O'Neal believes Tillman was injured at that time; then Tillman allegedly yelled, "What are firing at?! I am Pat *expletive* Tillman!" and then O'Neal heard nothing; he thought he heard running water and asked Tillman if he had "urinated" on himself; he received no response; the firing had ceased; he looked over and saw blood running from under Tillman's head; he grabbed Tillman by his armor and pulled him up (probably why the sergeant found him in a half sitting position with his head slumped over)] Eyewitness indicate that there was circular blood splatter on that rock behind Tillman's head which would support the proposition that he was sitting in an upright position in front of the rock when he was killed. [update: this is probably still true; very likely Tillman raised his torso up off the ground in a slight reclining position while he was yelling [update to the update: O'Neal later says that the last time he saw Tillman alive, he was on one knee]; possibility that he was only struck with one round in the head in that position and additional rounds as he lay dead accounting for close grouping of wounds; the proposition that he was a "stationary" target still holds; looking at the diagram and trajectory lines, this makes even more sense].
These images are not to scale. In other words, you cannot tell how far away the shooter was, nor how high or low in comparison to the position. This image shows Tillman, "Thanos" and O'Neals position looking out to the shooters' position(s). "A" indicates Tillman's final position. "D" indicates "Thanos" position. "C" indicates O'Neal's position. "B" indicates the approximate location of the "small arms fire". The blue lines are the approximate trajectory and the orange outlines are the approximate outlines of the two rocks bracketing Tillman's team's position.
According to the SAW operator, he was scanning the 9 O'clock position when one of his team members yelled, "contact" at 3' O'clock. One or more of his team members performing dismounted security, began firing towards a position on the hill where he believes he saw an Afghani male "Paralleling" the GMV. The SAW operator said that he spun his weapon around and shot two "ten round" bursts into the area to provide "suppressive fire". He believes he was between 200 and 300 meters from his target. CID and previous investigations indicate the position was approximately 200 meters from Tillman's position.
Specifications of the M240B (Squad Automatic Weapon)
According to Field Mannual 3-22-68, the M240B can provide "suppressive" fire up to 1,800 meters; has an effective range of 1,100 meters while mounted on a tripod, 800 meters on a bipod; and "point" (aim/directly on target) 800 meters Tripod, 600 meters bipod. It can fire "sustained" 100 rounds per minute with 6-9 round bursts, 4 to 5 seconds between bursts.
Update: The squad leader in the first HMMVW to exit the wadi or canyon said he fired six (6) rounds (two 3 round bursts) definitely striking and killing the AMF (Afghan Military Forces) that was just in front of and to the right of Tillman's position. He knows this because he was looking through his scope when he did it and positively identified the uniform the AMF was wearing when he was killed. (see trajectory)
A gunner on that same HMMVW was firing an M240b (SAW) using a 7.62mm round. He said he oriented off of his squad leader and the muzzle flashes from Tillman's position, thinking it was the enemy, and fired two (2) bursts of ten(10) rounds into that position. A second gunner on that same vehicle was firing a M249 using a 5.56mm round. He said he also oriented to where the others were firing and placed at least three (3) bursts of five (5) rounds into that position.
In other words, there were so many shooters and rounds going into that position, it would be impossible to know which of the three shooters or weapons actually made the wounds. However, the number of rounds certainly indicates
Conspiracy From Supposition
According to the ME who examined Tillman's remains, he could not verify the distance from which Tillman was shot based on the wounds. He did state that there was no stippling or gun powder residue that would indicate that Tillman was shot from less than 5ft.
It was this statement that was inaccurately reported by most news organizations, including FOX news, working from an AP report.
In the same testimony, medical examiners said the bullet holes in Tillman's head were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
Not only did they extrapolate the number of yards, but the type of weapon possibly used. Two medical examiners interviewed indicated that they could not tell the weapon used, only approximate the round because there were no fragments or other materials to examine to determine the actual size of the round or the weapon.
Page 118, Questions to Medical Examiner 2:
Q: Do you believe all entrance wounds were from the front of Cpl Tillman's head?
Q: In your opinion, could small caliber rounds such as the .223/5.56 or 7.62 have caused the defect in Cpl Tillman's head?
A: Yes. The size, characteristics, beveling of the skull, the impact points are more rounded instead of slit like as is on the rear of his head, all of the characteristics were consistent with what I saw during the autopsy of Cpl Tillman.
At no time does the ME indicate what type of weapon used. He only indicates that a small range of calibers could have made the wounds. The M240B fires a 7.62mm round.
The questioning continues regarding distance (Page 119):
Q: During the conduct of this investigation, there are some questions as to the distance in which Cpl Tillman was struck. Can you determine the approximate distance the shooter had to be from Cpl Tillman for him to sustain such injuries?
A: No. But it was not within a few feet. It was not a contact wound or associated with close range discharge of a weapon. When I say "close range" I am referring to withing four to five feet.
Q: Based on your observations, can you eliminate the injuries sustained by Cpl Tillman as close range?
Q: What about an intermediate wound...5 - 10ft?
A: We don't use such terms in this office. If there was stippling or soot, it may have been within 5ft, but I cannot be sure of distance in this case. These are indeterminate distance gun shot wounds, however, they are not close or contact wounds.
Similarly, on page 27, the investigator asks the same questions, the physician replies that there is no way to tell the exact distance. He believes it was from more than 5ft away because there is no stippling or residue. He does make this statement:
"I cannot give you an exact distance, but I have heard several theories such as .50 weapon was used, or Cpl Tillman was shot from a moving vehicle, or he was shot from 85 meters or further. In my opinion, none of these theories were the case. In my opinion, Cpl Tillman was have been shot from much closer range than 85 meters"
It is the investigator that suggests the range to be 5-10ft away, not the medical examiner. Both Examiners said that they could only say that it was not less than 5ft. There was no evidence or any known way to extrapolate the distance based on the available information and Tillman's condition. At no time do either ME posit a theory on the type of weapon, only the caliber. The AP extrapolates the "M16" based on the purported caliber and their limited knowledge of army weapons.
That report is completely inaccurate and has added to the conspiracy theories already abounding.
The ME does question the grouping and distance provided by eye witnesses because he has never seen three such wounds in such a tight grouping from such as the distance indicated by the shooters and physical report of their location (200 meters). However, he does not present any factual information on which to base this opinion beyond the close grouping. This also seems to work on the theory that there was only one shooter putting rounds into Tillman's position.
The images indicating the number of rounds placed in Tillman's position (between 25 and 40), Tillman's body being held upright and stationary as he was struck, the expertise and ability of the shooter coupled with the M240B's "point range" indicates that it is possible. Update: Not to mention the the squad leader's M4 or the other gunners M249.
The Multitude of Conspiracies
There are a multitude of conspiracies, supposition and misleading stories out there. all of which contribute to the general feeling of the public that somebody is not telling the truth. In today's culture, no proof need to be attached to that "feeling" to make it a lasting damage to people and our society.
I will continue to address known conspiracy theories and inaccurate reports as I find them. The next issue: How facts and bizarre coincidence collides to make a conspiracy.
Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part I - How it Begins
Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy - The Press at it's Best
Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part III - Cycle of Disinformation
Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part IV - Withholding Information
Barrage of Fire (one of the few media reports that gets it right - printed in 2004 after initial investigation)