Dingell questions cause of death for Taylor recruit

The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell is calling on officials to revise their determination of the cause of death last year of a Marine recruit from Taylor.

In a letter Tuesday to Beaufort County Coroner J. Edward Allen and Dr. Lee Marie Tormos, a pathologist, the Dearborn Democrat cited new information about the circumstances surrounding Private Raheel Siddiqui’s death as well as a recent Washington Post story highlighting at least 20 hazing investigations involving drill instructors at the Parris Island training depot in South Carolina in her request.

“This clearly demonstrates a pattern of maltreatment and of abuse at Parris Island, 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 wrote.

A military investigation last year found that Siddiqui, 20, fell three stories in a barracks stairwell on March 18, 2016, after a standoff with Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, a drill instructor who allegedly slapped him several times. The Marines concluded that Siddiqui committed suicide, based on an autopsy and witness accounts.

Siddiqui’s family has argued that the Pakistani-American Muslim was hazed and abused at Parris Island, and questioned why more Marines aren’t facing criminal or administrative actions in connection with his treatment.

Following his April 26 arraignment, officers have scheduled Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix for general court-martial proceedings Aug. 7-25 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the Marines Training and Education Command said Monday.

A general court-martial is the highest level of court-martial, reserved for the most serious misconduct alleged against service members.

Felix faces charges of violations of the military code including cruelty and maltreatment, failure to obey orders, making false official statements, drunk and disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice.

Siddiqui’s family rejects the Marine Corps’ finding that he killed himself and has said the pending charges against Felix are “insufficient.”

“Private Siddiqui was an intelligent, loyal, patriotic young Muslim man — and class valedictorian — who chose to serve this country to defend our highest ideals of freedom and opportunity. He was his family’s pride and joy,” Dingell wrote Tuesday. “Since the suicide determination, the family has experienced grave emotional stress and irreparable damages, both peoh,rsonally and within the community at large. I have seen firsthand the impact this has had on the Siddiqui family from the beginning and the pain the suicide determination has caused.”

Changing Siddiqui’s manner of death from suicide, Dingell added, “is the right thing to do since we have more information available to us and not all the facts were available when the original determination of suicide was made. No parent should have to bear the burden of their child committing suicide when the evidence points to the contrary.”