Marine Corps investigators announced Thursday that a recruit who died at the Parris Island basic training depot earlier this year had likely committed suicide, but said their investigation also found a pattern of hazing and abuse that may have spurred it.
Nearly two dozen Marines could be facing military punishment or even criminal charges in the case, which unfolded at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Parris Island in Beaufort County. The Marine Corps Times first reported the announcement Thursday. Parris Island trains all male recruits who live east of the Mississippi River and all female recruits nationwide.
The partially blacked-out report does not name the recruit, but the date and manner of death suggest it was almost certainly Rct. Raheel Siddiqui. Investigators earlier this year said Siddiqui died after falling 40 feet near a barracks stairwell on March 18. Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Pakistani-American from Michigan, had been at the depot for little more than a week.
Investigators said the recruit had written a note to his drill instructor earlier that day, asking to go to the infirmary for a sore throat. The letter did not follow proper procedure and the instructor punished the recruit by forcing him to run back and forth across his barracks. The report said the recruit eventually collapsed to the floor, apparently unresponsive. The drill instructor yelled at him to get back up, even slapping him at one point. Instructors are not allowed to strike recruits.
The report said the recruit suddenly got to his feet and ran down the squad bay to the stairwell outside, before jumping over the railing. An autopsy showed he had died from “blunt force trauma.”
Also noted in the report was that Siddiqui (although he is not named) had been evaluated by a Navy psychologist only days earlier after he told drill instructors on March 8 that he wanted to kill himself. Following the examination and an interview with a recruiter, Siddiqui was returned to training within 24 hours. The report notes that is inconsistent with normal procedures for suicidal tendencies.
Investigators also found “inadequate leadership” meant procedures for recording abuse and hazing were not clear, and the commanders were not aware of their role in an investigation. At least one of the drill instructors accused in the case was already under investigation for previous hazing accusations, the report said. Recruit Training Regiment commander Col. Paul Cucinotta was relieved of command in June along with senior enlisted officer Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Deabreu. Other Marines at the base are facing discipline, but have not been identified publicly.
The Pentagon announced several new policy changes in response to the investigation. One new rule bans drill instructors from continuing to train recruits while under investigation. Officers are also now required to take a more active presence during training exercises to make sure instructors are following proper procedures.