By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The death of a 29-year-old Taylor native at the U.S. Marine Corps training base Parris Island remains under investigation as family, friends and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) look for answers in what may have been a hate-crime based hazing.
In March it was reported that Pvt. Raheel Siddiqui died after falling into a 40-foot stairwell on his 11th day at the South Carolina training camp. The Marine Times on March 29 quoted Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials who said that there were “no apparent signs of foul play,” but that the investigation could take months.
Siddiqui’s family questioned early reports that his death had been a suicide – that he jumped off the three-story stairwell – and questioned if the Truman High School graduate had fallen victim to hazing. Dingell, in a letter to U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, asked for further information after a number of reports raised troubling questions.
“It is important that we recruit a military that reflects the diversity of our nation,” Dingell told Neller. “But reports in the Wall Street Journal of a drill instructor putting a Muslim recruit inside a clothes dryer are deeply disturbing.”
Dingell asked if any hazing may have played a part in Siddiqui’s death and has asked for further clarification of reported misconduct at the Marine camp.
Earlier this month it was reported that 15 drill instructors of the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion were being investigated. The drill instructors are alleged to have violated Marine Corps orders related to hazing, physical abuse, failure of supervision and assault.
A Marine Corp statement released earlier this month confirmed that a drill instructor had improperly been put in charge of recruits while under investigation for improper behavior. The Wall Street Journal reported that the instructor was questioned for alleged racist and anti-Muslim remarks.
Dingell said she is pressing for answers to more than a dozen questions, notably if any of the drill instructors currently under investigation had been in charge of Siddiqui during his training.
Fallout at Parris Island in the wake of Siddiqui’s death included the removal in June of the post’s second-highest ranking officer, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and his senior enlisted adviser, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Deabreu.
“We have a responsibility to our nation to support a strong military,” Dingell told Neller. “I have a moral responsibility to a family who lost a son and a brother. This young man was a class valedictorian who believed this country represented freedom and opportunity and wanted to defend those ideals.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])