Local Military News

This $100 million federal lawsuit stems from a recruit’s death at Parris Island

Raheel Siddiqui, shortly before shipping off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in March 2016.
Raheel Siddiqui, shortly before shipping off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in March 2016.

The parents of a former trainee who died at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island after a three-story fall have filed a $100 million lawsuit against the federal government.

Filed Friday, according to the Detroit News, which first reported the story, the lawsuit alleges negligence caused 20-year-old, Taylor, Mich., native Raheel Siddiqui’s death March 18, 2016.

Plaintiffs Ghazala Siddiqui and Masood Siddiqui, and attorney Shiraz Khan, claim the young recruit was “assaulted, hazed and discriminated against because of his Muslim faith,” according to the Detroit News. The lawsuit also alleges the government was negligent in declaring his death a suicide shortly after the fall, before a full investigation was conducted.

The lawsuit comes just days before the scheduled high-level court-martial of former Parris Island drill instructor Joseph Felix, who a Marine Corps investigation linked to Siddiqui’s death, and a few months before the court-martial of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, a rare, high-level trial of a field-grade officer slated to begin about two years after Siddiqui’s death.

Siddiqui died shortly after an altercation with Felix, according to a Marine Corps investigation.

Siddiqui, in his second week on the island, was reported to have been trying to request permission to go to medical for a sore throat on the day of his death. But Felix determined he wasn’t properly requesting permission, so he ordered the recruit to perform a series of “get-backs,” punitive sprints across the length of the squad bay, according to investigation documents. Siddiqui reportedly collapsed to the floor and was unresponsive, according to some witnesses. Felix was witnessed trying to rouse him and allegedly slapped him hard in the face multiple times.

Then Siddiqui rose from the floor, ran out the back door of his barracks and reportedly jumped from the third floor, landing in the stairwell below. He died hours later at Medical University of South Carolina Hospital in Charleston.

Felix should not have been supervising recruits at the time, according to the Corps; he was then under investigation for an incident that reportedly occurred in July 2015, when he allegedly ordered recruit Ameer Bourmeche into a commercial clothes dryer and turned it on — burning Bourmeche — while interrogating him about his loyalty and faith. Bourmeche, like Siddiqui, was a Muslim recruit, and Felix reportedly called both of them “terrorist” during their time on the island.

Felix, facing charges ranging from cruelty and maltreatment to obstruction of justice, will be tried for both incidents at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (N.C.) beginning Oct. 30.

Kissoon’s court-martial is scheduled for March 12 to March 21, at Marine Corps Base Quantico (Va.), according to the Corps’ Training and Education Command.

Kissoon, the former commander of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, is alleged to have failed to sideline Felix, who supervised Siddiqui’s Platoon 3042.

Felix’s and Kissoon’s trials are the last two remaining after the Corps announced in September 2015 that 20 Marines could face charges. Some of those Marines were sent to lower-level court-martials. Some have been acquitted. And some have received administrative punishments — those Marines have not been named because of privacy policies, according to the Corps.

The fallout in the wake of Siddiqui’s death has amounted to the worst scandal at Parris Island since the Ribbon Creek incident on April 8, 1956, when a drunken drill instructor led his trainees on a nighttime march at high tide on a moonless night, reportedly to instill discipline — six recruits drowned.

Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston

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