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Marines respond to Rep. Dingell's inquiry into 20-year-old trainee's death

Jun 8, 2016

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, has received a response to an inquiry submitted to the United States Marine Corps following the death of Private Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old trainee from Taylor, Michigan who died on March 18 while at Parris Island, S.C., for basic training.

Tuesday, Dingell released the USMC’s response to an April 4 letter she sent demanding a timeline for the inquiry into Siddiqui’s death, requesting details regarding the USMC’s initial response.

“Some are concerned that hazing may have been involved in the death of Private Siddiqui,” Dingell also wrote. “Has the Marine Corps received any indication that any hazing occurred in this instance?”

The USMC has removed two officers from their command in the wake of the incident.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was relieved of his command by Col. Paul D. Cucinnotta on March 31, and on June 6, Cucinnotta himself was relieved of his duties.

Kissoon’s dismissal was unrelated to Siddiqui’s death, according to the USMC’s response to Dingell’s inquiry. Cucinnotta’s removal was first reported by The Washington Post.

The USMC response to Dingell’s letter detailed two ongoing investigations: one a “Command Line of Duty investigation,” the other an investigation conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The results of the Command Line of Duty investigation will be made available to Siddiqui’s family upon conclusion, but the results of the NCIS investigation will only be made available through a document request process that requires a submission to the NCIS Freedom of Information Act Department.

Neither investigation is complete, and the USMC’s response indicated that “the NCIS investigation is expected to continue for some time.”

The letter did not directly answer Dingell’s questions about whether hazing was a factor in Siddiqui’s death, but said Cucinnotta’s dismissal came after “a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in that position,” and instances in which policies and procedures were not adhered to.

"Regarding your concern that hazing may have played a role in Private Siddiqui's death, it would be premature to comment given that the investigations are still pending."

“Regarding your concern that hazing may have played a role in Private Siddiqui’s death, it would be premature to comment given that the investigations are still pending,” wrote Brigadier General David J. Furness, a legislative assistant to the Commandant of the Marines Corps, General Robert B. Neller, in a response to Dingell’s letter.

“I can assure you that any indication of hazing will be carefully investigated,” he wrote.

Concerns surrounding Siddiqui’s Muslim faith were also a concern, Nabih Ayad, a family lawyer, told the Detroit Free Press in April.

More from Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press:

The family’s attorney, Nabih Ayad, told the Free Press Thursday that the family received a casualty report from the Marines that said Siddiqui had passed out during training, was awakened by a trainer and then he ran out and jumped over a ladderwell wall, falling three stories to his death. Ayad said that after Siddiqui fainted, "the trainer smacked him out of it, woke him up smacking him."

The third sentence of Dingell’s letter called Siddiqui “a young man of Muslim faith who loved his country and wanted to serve it and protect the freedoms for which it stands.”