USMC: Days before death, recruit told Parris Island officials of suicide plans

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Recruits climb over a wall during the obstacle course Feb. 25, 2013 on Parris Island. David Bessely/U.S. Marine Corps
Recruits climb over a wall during the obstacle course Feb. 25, 2013 on Parris Island. David Bessely/U.S. Marine Corps

USMC: Days before death, recruit told Parris Island officials of suicide plans

by: Wade Livingston | .
The Island Packet | .
published: September 14, 2016
 Five days before his fatal three-story plunge, Raheel Siddiqui told personnel at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island he planned to jump to his death.
 
On the morning of March 13, Siddiqui, a Marine recruit, told someone in his platoon he wanted to kill himself, according to a Marine Corps official close the death investigation who spoke on background Tuesday afternoon.
 
When asked how he would kill himself, Siddiqui said he would “jump out of the squad bay window” and, if necessary, “cut the screen window” before doing so, the official said.
 
Siddiqui’s family disputes the Corps’ claim of suicide and feels their son was “targeted and intentionally abused,” according to a statement provided Tuesday by the family’s attorney, Shiraz Khan.
 
Meanwhile, new details have emerged that tell how Parris Island officials addressed Siddiqui’s suicidal thoughts on March 13 and how they decided to return him to training the following day.
 
March 13
 
The investigation into Siddiqui’s death found, among other things, “anomalies and inconsistencies in the policies and procedures responding to suicidal ideations or statements.”
 
Corps officials close to the investigation say details about those anomalies aren’t yet available, but they were able to provide a description from heavily redacted reports of how Parris Island personnel addressed the recruit’s behavior.
 
At some time before 7:20 a.m. March 13, Siddiqui told someone in his platoon he wanted to kill himself, according to a Corps official.
 
He also reportedly told someone he’d had suicidal thoughts before but had not told his recruiter about them. In response, Siddiqui was told he could be “separated” from the Corps for “fraudulent enlistment” for failing to share that information with his recruiter.
 
Raheel Siddiqui, 20, died at the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., while in initial training.
Courtesy of the Siddiqui family
 
He was asked how he would explain it to his family if he didn’t become a Marine, and he was asked what he would do if he failed to do so.
 
“The future does not matter,” he is documented to have said, according to the Corps official. “This recruit is going to kill himself.”
 
He was told to take off his belt and remove his shoelaces, and the company office — Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion — was notified of his behavior.
 
At 7:20 a.m., a call was made to “EMS” — the Corps official did not know the specific agency — to request Siddiqui be transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
 
At 7:24 a.m., military police officers arrived at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. Siddiqui told the MPs he “can’t handle drill instructors yelling at him and hitting him,” the official said. Siddiqui’s claim that he’d been hit were dismissed and instead called “corrections.”
 
At 7:40 a.m., the request to transport Siddiqui was denied, based on a consultation with EMS personnel and because Siddiqui had not attempted to harm himself.
 
At 8:28 a.m., other personnel were notified of Siddiqui’s behavior and that the request to transport was denied.
 
The decision was made to house him in an adjacent platoon’s squad bay and assign him a “full-time shadow watch” recruit, who would stay with Siddiqui at all times. It was decided Siddiqui would spend the night in the adjacent squad bay and be taken to Beaufort Memorial in the morning.
 
Later that day, Siddiqui recanted his suicidal thoughts, the Corps official said. A decision was made to keep Siddiqui in the adjacent platoon and take him to the depot’s “Mental Health Unit” in the morning rather than the civilian hospital.
 
March 14
 
Before Siddiqui was examined by a psychologist at the Mental Health Unit, he was interviewed by the Recruiter Liaison Service.
 
That service provides two functions, according to Corps officials.
 
First, it determines if either recruits or recruiters provided false enlistment information.
 
Second, it encourages recruits who are experiencing difficulties to return to training.
 
At Parris Island, someone in a leadership role viewed the liaison service as a “tool” to be used before a mental health evaluation to ensure “recruits who express suicidal ideations are in the right state of mind and understand the consequences” of their actions, according to a Corps official close to the investigation.
 
Furthermore, this person believed most recruits with suicidal thoughts weren’t a real threat to themselves — that expressing suicidal thoughts was simply a way to get out of training.
 
Someone is documented to have not believed the threat, according to the Corps official — that person said Siddiqui was “fabricating a suicidal threat” and “using the magic words so he could go home.”
 
During the visit with the liaison, Siddiqui again recanted his suicidal thoughts.
 
“This recruit never meant that and regrets it,” he was documented to have said, according to the Corps official.
 
Siddiqui also said he’d not had any suicidal thoughts prior to recruit training.
 
Later, on March 14, he met with a psychologist, who deemed him fit to return to training.
 
The psychologist found “no current diagnosis,” the Corps official said, and classified Siddiqui as a “low risk” to harm himself. And it was determined no follow-up mental health visit was necessary.
 
He was returned to his original platoon, the Corps official said, with instructions to ease him back into training.
 
At least one person in a leadership position was not informed that Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself.
 
And someone in the platoon was documented to have thought easing Siddiqui back into training meant “no incentive training for small mistakes.”
Small mistakes
 
On the morning of March 18, Siddiqui, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, was ordered to the front of the squad bay to get a pass to receive medical treatment for a sore throat.
 
He reported as ordered but failed to do so properly, according to Corps officials.
 
A drill instructor ordered him to perform a series of “get-backs” — incentive training — whereby he ran the length of the squad bay several times in attempt to properly report.
 
At some point, he fell to the floor crying and clutching his throat. He was ordered to his feet but remained on the floor.
 
The drill instructor — the same person Corps officials say was improperly assigned to Siddiqui’s platoon while under investigation for hazing and interrogating another Muslim recruit months before — slapped Siddiqui in the face between one and three times.
 
Siddiqui jumped up and ran out of the squad bay.
 
Then, officials say, he jumped over the railing and fell three stories. He died several hours later at the Medical University of South Carolina Hospital in Charleston.
 
At some point during his time on the island, the same drill instructor had called him a “terrorist.”
 
In the wake of his death, several high-ranking leaders at the depot have been relieved of command. A culture that allows hazing and recruit abuse has been found to exist on Parris Island.
 
According the Marine Corps, 20 Marines at all levels of command at the depot could face “military justice or administrative action.”
 
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