One of Pat Tillman’s platoon-mates believes he might have fired the shots that killed the former NFL player turned Army Ranger in the 2004 friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan.
Steven Elliott, who sat down with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in his first interview since that day, has been living with guilt for 10 years.
“It is possible, in my mind, that I hit him,” Elliott said.
After an Army Humvee broke down in the mountainous region of southeast Afghanistan, Tillman’s platoon was ordered to remove it. They were split into two, but had trouble communicating with each other as they dealt with the terrain. One of the groups got caught in an ambush so Tillman’s group, who was up ahead, came back to help.
But a squad leader in the group under attack misidentified Tillman’s group’s vehicle and his Rangers opened fire, killing Tillman.
Per ESPN, the Army has either never determined or never released whose shots hit Tillman, who was part of the 75th Ranger Regiment out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but Elliott thinks it could have come from his weapon — a M240 Bravo machine gun.
“You aim at a point, and you fire a burst. You are holding your trigger for a fraction of a second, but that fraction of a second releases three to five rounds,” he said. “If it looked like you had [three] rounds and very close to one another, well, that was very consistent to how I was firing my weapon at that point. … It would be disingenuous for me to say there is no way my rounds didn’t kill him, because my rounds very well could have.”
Elliott has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, gone through counseling, and reconnected with religion and family, and is in a better place now. But he continues to live with the guilt.
“If I could change what happened, I would change it in a heartbeat,” he said. “Change it in a heartbeat.”