DETROIT – The family of a Muslim Marine Corps recruit who died in boot camp last year is suing the U.S. government for $100 million.
Raheel Siddiqui, 20, died after he fell nearly 40 feet in a stairwell at the Parris Island training site. The Marine Corps said the native of Taylor, Mich. killed himself amid a widespread culture of hazing and abuse in his battalion.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, claims the Marine Corps misled Siddiqui about conditions and practices at the Parris Island training facility. The suit also claims the Marine Corps was well aware of Siddiqui's Muslim faith and failed to inform him there already was an investigation for acts committed against another Muslim recruit at Parris Island. The U.S. government failed to "adequately oversee and protect" Siddiqui or reassign him to another battalion, the suit claims.
Moreover, Siddiqui allegedly threatened to commit suicide at the boot camp, was physically abused by a drill instructor and had pain in his neck on the day of his death. On that day -- March 18, 2016 -- Siddiqui allegedly told his superiors he needed medical treatment, that he had a swollen throat for three days, lost his voice and could barely speak, and was "in a lot of pain."
The lawsuit (view at the bottom of this article) claims the Marine Corps failed to send Siddiqui to the medical department and did not give him any medical attention. Finally, the lawsuit claims Siddiqui actually fell unconscious on the day of his death but was revived.
The lawsuit also disputes the official time and cause of Siddiqui's death -- "medical evidence of the injuries sustained by Raheel Siddiqui are inconsistent with death resulting solely from a fall." The suit claims "suicide is not the most conclusive manner of death in this case."
The Marines, however, maintain Siddiqui's death was a suicide.
Investigations into misconduct
After Siddiqui's death, the Marines launched two investigations into misconduct by drill instructors. A third investigation, which was ongoing at the time of Siddiqui's death, looked into allegations of hazing in 2015. It was ultimately combined with the other two.
The Marine Corps said it has ordered those leaders relieved, if they haven't already been removed from their positions. The service said the 20 have been identified for potential administrative or judicial punishment, which could include courts-martial for some.
In a statement released in September 2016, the Marine Corps released findings which were the result of three investigations conducted by Maj. Gen. James Lukeman from the service's training and education command in Quantico, Va.
Here are the findings:
- Recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors, with a noted insufficiency of oversight and supervision at various command levels
- Improper assignment of a drill instructor for duty while under investigation for previous allegations of assault and hazing
- Maltreatment of new drill instructors by more experienced drill instructors
- Gaps in awareness by commanders regarding their roles within the command investigation process
- Anomalies and inconsistencies in the policies and procedures responding to suicidal ideations or statements.
U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell called the Marine Corps' announcement a "first step." Dingell's office said the congresswoman met with Marine Corps Commandant General Robert B. Neller in her office on to inform her that upon completion of the investigation, twenty Recruit Training Regiment personnel were identified for possible military justice or administrative action. Dingell's office said the investigations revealed deviations from established policies and procedures for Marine Corps recruit training.
3 Marines charged, but not in connection to Siddiqui's death
In December 2016, Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) announced three Marines assigned to Parris Island were charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but none of the allegations are in connection with the investigation into Siddiqui's death.
- Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus was charged with maltreatment, violation of a lawful order and making a false official statement.
- Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez was charged with failure to obey a lawful general order and making a false official statement.
- Sgt. Riley R. Gress was charged with maltreatment, failure to obey a lawful order and making a false official statement.
TECOM said the three Marines would face special courts-martial, which is a mid-level court venue that can punish convicted Marines with a maximum confinement up to one year in the brig. A staff sergeant whose name TECOM is withholding will face an Article 32 hearing on accusations of cruelty and maltreatment, failure to obey a lawful general order and making a false official statement, a TECOM news release said. An Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian court's grand jury proceeding, will review the evidence and help determine whether the Marine ultimately faces a court-martial.