Pat Tillman, the NFL player who became a folk hero when he gave it all up to join the U.S. Army Rangers and fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan, died on April 22, 2004 in what was later revealed as a “friendly fire” incident, killed by his fellow Army Rangers.
Now, with the 10th anniversary of the death of Pat Tillman coming up this week, a former Ranger who believes he may have inadvertently killed the former Arizona Cardinals defensive back, has given an interview in which he speaks publicly about the death of Pat Tillman for the first time.
Pat Tillman Spurned $3.6 Million Contract To Join Army Rangers
After the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pat Tillman was so motivated to action that he quit his football career at the age of 24 and after just three NFL seasons, in order to enlist in the Army. Tillman was being paid $512,000 per year at the time he abandoned the NFL, and spurned a three-year contract offer that would have paid him about $1.2 million per year, preferring to join the military instead.
But about two years after he signed up for service, Pat Tillman was part of an Army Ranger convoy that got stuck in one of Afghanistan’s many mountainous regions and came under heavy enemy attack. Tillman died in the exchange of gunfire, but while the Army at first said that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, it later told Tillman’s family that the ex-NFL star died from bullets fired by another American soldier.
Steven Elliott Says “It Is Possible” That He Fired The Shots That Killed Tillman
Another member of Tillman’s platoon, Steven Elliott, has long been suspected of firing the fatal shots, three bullets that struck Pat Tillman in the head as he stood on a ridgeline above the convoy, attempting to provide covering fire.
“It is possible, in my mind, that I hit him,” said Elliott, in the interview with the ESPN investigative program Outside the Lines. Two other Army Rangers who were in the same vehicle as the now-33-year-old Elliott and who also fired on Tillman’s position declined to speak to ESPN.
Elliott said that he after suffering for a decade with post-traumatic stress disorder and guilt over the knowledge that he may have been responsible for the death of Pat Tillman, he gave the interview to offer a story of redemption to other soldiers who suffer from PTSD.
Three Shots To Head Consistent With His Training, Says Elliott
The three bullets that struck Pat Tillman in the head were bunched close together and Elliot was firing an automatic weapon, leading some to wonder if he could have produced three precisely aimed shots. But Elliot told ESPN that was he was trained to do exactly that.
“You aim at a point, and you fire a burst. You are holding your trigger for a fraction of a second, but that fraction of a second releases three to five rounds,” Elliott said. “It would be disingenuous for me to say there is no way my rounds didn’t kill him, because my rounds very well could have.”
The death of Pat Tillman caused one of the most contentious military scandals of the past decade, with Tillman’s family members accusing the Army of a cover-up, for not admitting that friendly fire caused his death until five weeks after the tragedy.