A congresswoman sent the country’s highest-ranking Marine a letter expressing concerns that hazing could have been involved in a recruit’s death on Parris Island.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., sent the letter to Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, on Monday and asked him to reply by April 18.
“This letter is in regards to the tragic death of U.S. Marine Corps recruit Private Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan,” Dingell wrote. “Private Siddiqui died on March 18, 2016, after arriving at Parris Island for boot camp. 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.”
Siddiqui died just 11 days after arriving at Parris Island. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating his death. According to NCIS, he died after an almost 40-foot fall during recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
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An NCIS spokesperson said, at the moment, foul play is not suspected. Siddiqui’s family has shared a casualty report form that indicates he jumped to his death, but an attorney working with the family says they’re skeptical of the information they’ve received from officials.
“Some are concerned that hazing may have been involved in the death ... ,” Dingell wrote. “Has the Marine Corps received any indication that any hazing occurred in this instance? Does the Marine Corps have any policies in place to prevent and deter hazing from happening at basic training? Please provide a detailed response.”
In addition to questioning Neller about hazing, Dingell asked:
▪ For a timeline for when NCIS is expected to complete its investigation of Siddiqui’s death.
▪ If the Marine Corps would preserve medical and autopsy records and share them with Congress and the family.
▪ If there was any indication of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon — who commanded Siddiqui’s training battalion and who was relieved of command March 31 — was “not being sensitive enough to the needs of recruits.”
Supposedly there was some type of hazing. We’re just waiting to see what the details are. ... We know from prior practice from speaking with other Marines that this does happen; this does go on.
“Supposedly there was some type of hazing,” Nabih Ayad, a Detroit-based attorney working with Siddiqui’s family, said Thursday afternoon. “We’re just waiting to see what the details are. ... We know from prior practice from speaking with other Marines that this does happen; this does go on.”
When asked the nature of the of hazing allegedly directed at Siddiqui, Ayad said, “I don’t know the details of that.”
When asked how he defined hazing in relation to Marine Corps recruit training, Ayad said: “Being overly aggressive with the trainee. Smacking, kicking, punching. Don’t care if they’re sick. ... Things of this nature that are very dangerous to the trainee.”
NCIS spokesman Ed Buice declined to comment Thursday on whether hazing was a specific matter being investigated.
“I'm unaware of any allegations of hazing and, if I were, I would not be at liberty to address those allegations, any more than I would discuss any evidentiary matters in any ongoing investigation,” Buice wrote in an email.
Buice offered no update on the investigation, which could take several months or a year.
“The Marine Corps has acknowledged receipt of the letter, and the congresswoman looks forward to a timely response that provides a detailed timeline for completion of the NCIS inquiry,” Hannah Smith, Dingell’s communications director, wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.
“A prompt and comprehensive investigation into this tragedy is critical to ensuring the family receives the answers they need and ensuring Congress can conduct any necessary oversight of the incident,” Smith wrote.
Smith declined to comment on who, specifically, was concerned that hazing had taken place in Siddiqui’s death and what prompted that concern.