An attorney working with the family of a dead Marine recruit says the family continues to question the information it has received from Parris Island.
“We’re not accusing anyone at this stage,” Nabih Ayad, of Detroit-based Ayad Law, P.L.L.C, said Tuesday afternoon. “We have suspicions.”
Ayad said he’s worked with the family of Raheel Siddiqui since he died March 18 after a 40-foot fall during recruit training on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
The Naval Criminal Investigation Service continues to investigate Siddiqui’s death and says, at the moment, there was no apparent foul play.
But Ayad says information the family has received “doesn’t make sense.” He provided new details about the events preceding Siddiqui’s fall. He also said that, based on the results of NCIS’ investigation, he would call for a congressional investigation if necessary.
On March 21, Siddiqui’s family told a Detroit television station their son died when he ran and jumped over a wall, falling three stories to his death. The family shared with WDIV Channel 4 a casualty report form – received from Parris Island officials – that stated Siddiqui passed out during a drill and, when awakened by a drill instructor, got up and “ran out the back hatch of the squad bay and jumped over the ladderwell wall ... falling 3 stories before landing on the ground.”
Ayad relayed a similar story Tuesday but added Siddiqui had “medical documentation in his pocket” – a doctor’s note saying he had a swollen throat because of a cold or infection – and had requested relief from training, before he passed out.
Ayad said Siddiqui’s request was denied and, after he passed out, he was awakened with a “violent smack to the face.”
When asked where he received that information, Ayad said Siddiqui’s family had shared the details, and that he’d seen “a couple of pages of a report” that confirmed the family’s story.
When asked Tuesday afternoon if Siddiqui had a doctor’s note, requested medical attention or was struck in the face, Marine Corps spokesperson Capt. Greg Carroll would not comment. Carroll said NCIS would address all questions pertaining to Siddiqui.
Carroll said the Navy provides medical support for recruits.
When asked if drill instructors could put their hands on recruits, Carroll said there are “eight authorized instances of physical contact.”
A drill instructor can touch a recruit to:
- correct a recruit’s position
- correct a recruit’s movement
- adjust the arrangement of a recruit’s clothing or equipment
- conduct inspection of a recruit’s person, clothing or equipment
- conduct a demonstration during authorized training
- prevent injury to a recruit
- tend to an injured recruit
- or defend oneself from an assault by a recruit.
“Any contact made for the authorized reasons must be executed with the minimum force necessary to accomplish the task at hand,” Carroll said.
When further asked if drill instructors could strike recruits in the face, Carroll said he had already noted the authorized instances of physical contact.
NCIS spokesperson Ed Buice said Tuesday he had not heard that Siddiqui had a doctor’s note or had been struck in the face.
“We don’t talk about the details of ongoing investigations,” Buice said, adding later that the investigation was still in “the fact-finding phase.”
NCIS death investigations can take several months, he said, adding that it’s not uncommon for some to take a year.
Shortly after Siddiqui’s death, the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette paraphrased Carroll as saying the investigation could take about 20 days. Carroll said Tuesday that NCIS was the “subject-matter expert” on length of investigations.
“There have been statements made about the chain of events that led to his death, but we don’t make premature conclusions,” Buice said Tuesday when asked if NCIS was investigating Siddiqui’s death as an accident, suicide or something else. “That’s why we do the investigation.”
“The family doesn’t feel one bit that their child would commit suicide,” Ayad said. “People don’t normally commit suicide in the open around their colleagues.”
Ayad said he sent a certified letter to NCIS on Tuesday asking the organization for “a full and thorough investigation” and “to preserve any audio or video (evidence)” and other documentation pertaining to Siddiqui’s death.
Ayad, who said he’s handling the Siddiqui family’s matter pro bono “at this stage,” said he’s still in the investigation stage. He wants to know if Siddiqui was pushed, accidentally or intentionally, over the wall, and he’s curious if the recent relief of command of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, who commanded Siddiqui’s training battalion, has anything to do with the recruit’s death.
Kissoon was relieved last week after Col. Paul D. Cucinotta, commander of recruit training at the depot, said he had lost confidence in his ability to lead.
“The next steps are to wrap up the investigation, look at the investigation and talk to our medical experts,” Ayad said, “and if we feel there’s any foul play at hand, call for a congressional investigation … .”