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Parris Island officer faces court-martial, 2 years after recruit's death

By WADE LIVINGSTON | The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 2, 2017

The Marine Corps has set trial dates for the highest-ranking officer its investigation has linked to the death of former trainee Raheel Siddiqui at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon is scheduled to be tried by general court-martial — the military’s highest court — next year, from March 12 to March 21, at Marine Corps Base Quantico (Va.), according to Capt. Joshua Pena, spokesperson for the Corps’ Training and Education Command.

Courts-martial of such high-ranking officers are extremely rare. Kissoon’s is set to occur about two years after Siddiqui’s death, the fallout from which has amounted to the worst scandal at Parris Island since the infamous 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 — it was a punishment, and six recruit drowned.

Kissoon, the former commander of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, is alleged to have failed to sideline a drill instructor who, before supervising Siddiqui’s Platoon 3042, reportedly showed dangerous and inappropriate behavior toward recruits.

Siddiqui died from injuries sustained from a nearly 40-foot fall at the depot on March 18, 2016. The 20-year-old, Taylor, Mich., native reportedly had an altercation with his drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, moments before the fall, according to a Corps investigation.

Felix is reported to have disciplined Siddiqui — who was trying to request permission to go to medical — by making him sprint back and forth across his barracks. Siddiqui reportedly collapsed, and Felix tried to revive him, at one point allegedly violently slapping him in the face multiple times. Siddiqui then jumped up from the floor, ran out the back of the barracks and leapt from the third floor.

A Marine Corps investigation said Felix’s alleged actions were the impetus for Siddiqui’s.

Felix — himself facing general court-martial — should not have been supervising recruits, according to the Corps, because he was under investigation for a July 2015 hazing-and-recruit-abuse incident.

In that incident, Felix allegedly ordered Muslim recruit Ameer Bourmeche into a commercial clothes dryer, interrogated him about his faith and loyalty and turned on the machine multiple times, which burned the recruit.

Felix allegedly called Bourmeche a “terrorist,” a slur he was alleged to have later called Siddiqui, who was also Muslim.

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.

Former drill instructor Sgt. Michael Eldridge also faces charges for his alleged involvement in the dryer incident. Until last month he faced a general court-martial, but his case was moved to a low-level summary court-martial. The Corps offered no explanation for the change of venue, which now means the proceedings will not be open to the public.

Shortly after the Corps announced the move, Military.com reported Eldridge had reached a plea deal and would testify against Felix.

No dates have been set for Eldridge’s trial. Pena said the Corps will announce when they are, and will provide an update as to Eldridge’s status after the proceedings.

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©2017 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

Visit The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.) at www.islandpacket.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, commanding officer of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, gives a tour of the 3rd Battalion barracks Oct. 9, 2014 at Parris Island, South Carolina.
DAVID BESSEY/U.S. MARINE CORPS

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