Quantcast

Coroner says he could consider changing Marine recruit Siddiqui's cause of death

By TODD SPANGLER | Detroit Free Press (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — A South Carolina coroner said he would consider changing the ruling of suicide for a Michigan Marine recruit who died at boot camp last year if circumstances warrant.

Beaufort County Coroner J. Edward Allen said, "Nothing has been produced thus far" that has been shared with his office that would lead him to change the cause of death for 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui, but he's open to reviewing any information.

Siddiqui died last March 18 in a fall that sparked several investigations into recruit abuse and hazing at the Marines' iconic boot camp on Parris Island, S.C.

"Until I get that, everything remains as is," said Allen, who has been Beaufort County's elected coroner for nine years and served as deputy coroner for 27 years before that.

While Allen didn't detail precisely what information he has or hasn't looked at, he said that if there are investigative reports or other information that might change his finding as to the cause of death, he welcomes them being sent to his office.

Allen's comments came as Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice confirmed that its investigation into Siddiqui's death ended some weeks ago and he does not believe additional charges will be brought in the case.

On Tuesday, the Free Press reported that U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, had sent Allen's office a letter asking him to reconsider his finding of suicide in the death of Siddiqui, a former high school valedictorian from Taylor, who fell three stories after allegedly being slapped by a drill instructor at the Marines' boot camp on Parris Island, S.C., on March 18, 2016.

Siddiqui's family made a similar request in mid-April, according to the family's lawyer, Shiraz Khan of Southfield.

Siddiqui's death led to revelations of widespread abuse at the camp and charges of cruelty and maltreatment and other accusations against his drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who is expected to face a general court-martial in August.

An investigation found that Siddiqui ran through a barracks door and leaped over an exterior stairwell after being forced to run back and forth and being slapped at least once after asking for medical attention.

Although the Marines said he had earlier threatened suicide -- and recanted before being returned to his platoon -- his family has steadfastly denied he had any mental issues or intention to kill himself.

An investigation found that when Siddiqui went to leap over the stairwell, his foot caught a railing before he fell some 38 feet to the ground.

Dingell, who represents Taylor, sent both Allen and Dr. Lee Marie Tormos, a pathologist at a Charleston, S.C., hospital where Siddiqui's autopsy was conducted, a letter Tuesday saying that numerous reports of hazing indicate a "pattern of maltreatment ... which shows that what happened to Private Siddiqui was not an isolated incident and gives more credence to the claims that his death was the result of abuse and not a suicide."

She asked that the cause of death be altered from suicide to "pending" or "undetermined" until more facts become available. The Marines had previously told the family and Dingell that the cause of death was set by the local coroner and it would be up to him to change it.

Allen told the Free Press it's within his authority to change Siddiqui's cause of death but that he'd have to review the investigations, media reports and other materials cited by Dingell and the family first to decide if they warranted such a change.

He said he presumed those asking him to change the cause of death would supply any relevant materials. Dingell's office -- which had said the congresswoman also plans to reach out to the coroner by phone -- said they would work to provide any materials he needs to change the cause of death.

Allen said the initial cause of death was reached "based on evidence presented by Naval Criminal Investigative Services" -- which in its initial report last year said that no foul play was suspected in Siddiqui's death -- as well as on the autopsy.

While Allen didn't detail precisely what information he has or hasn't looked at, he said that if there are investigative reports or other information that might change his finding as to the cause of death, he welcomes them being sent to his office.

On Wednesday, Buice, of the NCIS, said that the investigation into Siddiqui’s death was finished in mid-April and sent to training command at Parris Island. He said it was his understanding that the NCIS investigation -- which made no recommendations -- was not expected to lead to the command filing criminal charges in Siddiqui's death.

Buice could offer no additional specifics of what the NCIS investigation found.

———

©2017 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Raheel Siddiqui, 20, died at the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., while in initial training.
COURTESY OF THE SIDDIQUI FAMILY

0

comments Join the conversation and share your voice!  

from around the web