But as revealing as the film may be at exposing the efforts within the ranks of the Army and the U.S. government to hide the true nature of Tillman's death from the American public, it could not have happened without the dogged researching and reporting that came before it. A brief recap of how Tillman's true fate was found out, piece by piece, by his friends, family and the press:
April 26, 2004
The media learns of Tillman's death from a U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers. At the time, it's reported that Tillman was killed instantly by enemy fire during an ambush, though the exact circumstances are under investigation. He is awarded the Silver Star for bravery one week later, an award that cannot be given to those killed in friendly fire situations.
May 3, 2004
Pat Tillman is honored in a nationally televised memorial service, in which Arizona Sen. John McCain delivers the eulogy.
May 30, 2004
The Washington Post's Josh White reports:
May 23, 2005Pat Tillman, the former pro football player, was killed by other American troops in a 'friendly fire' episode in Afghanistan last month and not by enemy bullets, according to a U.S. investigation of the incident. ...
That Tillman, 27, wasn't killed by enemy fire in a heroic rescue attempt was a major revelation by the U.S. military more than a month after the April 22 incident, which the Pentagon and members of Congress had hailed as an example of combat bravery.
The Washington Post's Josh White reports:
May 28, 2005Former NFL player Pat Tillman's family is lashing out against the Army, saying that the military's investigations into Tillman's friendly fire death in Afghanistan last year were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for them to deal with their loss.
Pat Tillman Sr. writes in to The Washington Post to "clarify" the previous report:
Aug. 23, 2005I characterized the second and third investigations as "shams." The first one -- a homicide investigation -- may have been accurate, but the results were changed by superiors after the investigating officer refused to alter them. I did not say the Army "botched" the investigation. I said it deliberately falsified baseline facts -- e.g., distance, light conditions, details perceived before and while firing, and the identification of "friendlies." ...
Staff writer Josh White reported that soldiers burned my son's uniform and body armor, but he did not report that all physical evidence was destroyed on instructions from superiors.
The San Fransisco Chronicle's Robert Collier reports:
Sept. 25, 2005The Pentagon has reopened an investigation into last year's friendly fire killing of former football star Pat Tillman in combat in Afghanistan, saying it will begin a "review" of a previous Army probe that Tillman's parents and others have strongly criticized. ...
"The other investigations were frauds," Patrick Tillman said in a telephone interview with The Chronicle.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Robert Collier reports:
March 7, 2006A Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman's family members and soldiers who served with him, found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military's attempt at self-protection.
March 13, 2006The father of former NFL player Cpl. Pat Tillman said Monday he doesn't believe the full truth about his son's death in Afghanistan will ever emerge, despite a new investigation ...
Pat Tillman Sr., a San Jose attorney, would not speak with CNN on camera. But he expressed frustration at the handling of his son's death so far and was pessimistic about the chances that the latest investigation would reveal anything new.
CBS News reports:
Mary Tillman has been a model of patience and fortitude as she doggedly pursues the facts concerning her son Pat's death in Afghanistan two years ago. ...
But as much as Mary Tillman and the rest of the Tillman family hope this new inquiry will clear up the glaring contradictions and mysterious discrepancies of the previous accounts, she knows it is not prudent to be overly optimistic.
May 28, 2006
July 19, 2006Much -- but not all -- of the story of what went wrong that April day in 2004 can be found in thousands of Army documents obtained by CNN. And while the heavily blacked-out documents provide some answers -- they also raise substantial questions that three separate Army investigations have failed to resolve.
ABC News reports:
Summer 2006Two years after Tillman's death, the Defense Department Inspector General's Office nears the completion of yet another investigation into the death and many very important questions remain unanswered.
ESPN.com writer Mike Fish interviews Tillman's commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, who tells him he's not driven to find out the identity of Tillman's killer because it was part of the fog of war, and he disregarded Tillman's family's request for further information by pointing out that neither was a regular, Christian church-goer at the time:
July 28, 2006"When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more -- that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."
Stan Goff, retired veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces and aid to the Tillman family throughout their inquiries, writes at TruthDig:
Sept. 16, 2006If this story could be covered up, for just a while, it had spin capacity. Pat could be turned into a martyr-jingo icon. ... And that is precisely what they did, Kauzlarich included. ... They never counted on his brother Kevin discovering that there was an initial investigation that vanished. They never counted on a mother and father who were strong enough to demand the truth about what had happened, and determined enough to rescue the real person that was Pat Tillman from the spin machine into which the Pentagon tried to feed his body.
HBO interviews Tillman's friend and fellow football player Jake Plummer, who asks, "Who was calling the shots, and why would you lie?"
April 14, 2007
Conspiracy site Infowars has the following report, which comes with a sensational claim:
April 23, 2007A U.S. House committee has announced it will hold hearings to investigate misleading military statements that followed the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in Iraq. ...
[Tillman's] death may have even been a criminal plot manufactured to this end, a suspicion that both military investigators and Tillman's family have repeated.
Pat Tillman's younger brother, Kevin, who joined the Army at the same time as Pat, testifies before the House committee, blasting the government's coverup of his brother's death:
Summer 2007These are deliberate and calculated lies: Writing a Silver Star award before a single eyewitness account is taken is not a misstep. Falsifying soldier witness statements for a Silver Star is not a misstep. These are intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for fraud. Delivering false information at a nationally televised memorial service is not an error in judgment. Discarding an investigation that does not fit a preordained conclusion is not an error in judgment.
July 13, 2007Witnessing the Tillman family's harrowing congressional testimony, documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev approaches them to make a documentary about Pat's story. Initially, they decline his offer, citing privacy concerns. Eventually, after "about seven months" of Bar-Lev pestering them, they accept.
The Raw Story's Michael Roston reports:
July 26, 2007Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., revealed on Friday afternoon that the White House and Pentagon were holding up a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation into the friendly fire death of former professional football player and Army Corporal Patrick Tillman.
The Associated Press reports:
July 27, 2007The probes found that nine officers, including four generals, were at fault in providing the bad information and should be held accountable. But the reports determined that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the actual shooting, and that there was no deliberate cover-up.
Conspiracy site Prison Planet reports:
The Associated Press reports:Army medical examiners concluded Tillman was shot three times in the head from just 10 yards away, no evidence of "friendly fire" damage at scene, Army attorneys congratulated each other on cover-up, Wesley Clark concludes "orders came from the very top" to murder pro-football star because he was about to become an anti-war political icon. ...
Shocking new facts emerged about the case last night but were bizarrely underplayed by The Associated Press ... a complete disservice to the horrific implications that the new evidence carries.
July 29, 2007Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The Associated Press interviews Sgt. Bryan O'Neal, who was at Tillman's side at the time of his death.
Aug. 9, 2007O'Neal said Tillman, a corporal, threw a smoke grenade to identify themselves to fellow soldiers who were firing at them. Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" again and again when he was killed, O'Neal said.
Stan Goff, the Army vet who aided the Tillman family throughout their investigation, writes in Counterpunch:
My contention from having seen the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and from familiarity with the Law of Warfare is that this warrants a re-investigation into the question of whether there was a criminal homicide.
Aug. 14, 2007
The Associated Press reports:
May 4, 2008Twenty U.S. military members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to help secure the release of all documents related to the death of Pat Tillman.
CBS News 60 Minutes reports:
While there is some disagreement about the details of what happened the day Tillman was killed, the Rangers 60 Minutes spoke with said it began when their commanders made a critical error, splitting their convoy into two groups as they moved through Taliban territory. ...
Some of his fellow Rangers say that before he died, Pat Tillman expressed his fear that if something happened to him, his death would be exploited by the military and used as propaganda.
July 14, 2008
The U.S. House of Representatives releases a 51-page-report detailing, finally, all that is known about the death of Pat Tillman and the subsequent cover-up.
Sept. 15, 2009
Writer Jon Krauker's authorized biography of Tillman, "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman" -- based heavily upon the deceased's personal journals -- is published, revealing in detail the circumstances of Tillman's tragic death.
January 23, 2010
"The Tillman Story" premieres at the Sundance Film Festival and is nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. It does not win.