The parents of a 20-year-old Muslim Marine recruit who fell three stories to his death during boot camp in South Carolina in March 2016 filed a $100 million suit against the federal government on Friday for their son’s death.
In a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, the family’s lawyer, Shiraz Khan, alleges that Raheel Siddiqui’s death was due to “negligence on multiple levels of his command,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
Since his death, the Marine Corps has maintained that Siddiqui committed suicide. But his family reportedly contends that their son was “constitutionally and morally incapable” of killing himself since he was a “faithful Muslim and son,” Task and Purpose reports. In the lawsuit, the Siddiqui family blames Raheel’s death on “a culture of abuse and hazing” and “recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors, with a noted insufficiency of oversight and supervision.”
The lawsuit claims that Raheel Siddiqui’s recruiter “deliberately withheld material information from [him]” regarding the conditions at Parris Island, SC, and that the omission prevented Siddiqui “from making an informed decision to enlist.” It charges Siddiqui’s recruiter with willfully choosing not to disclose that a Drill Instructor at Parris Island, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, was currently under investigtion for having recently “discriminated against and abused” another Muslim recruit due to his faith by allegedly forcing him to sit inside a dryer.
The lawsuit states that within one day of joining Platoon 3042, which was under the command of the aforementioned drill instructor, Siddiqui made a “verbal threat of suicide.” Military Police were called, and when they arrived, Siddiqui told them that the drill instructor hit him, but no disciplinary action was taken. Siddiqui’s suicidal ideation was documented, but he recanted the following day and was categorized as being at a “low risk” of attempting self-harm.
According to the Free Press, parts of a preliminary investigation made public last year indicated that Siddiqui had been abused, hazed, and called a “terrorist” during his time at Parris Island. This report asserted that on the morning Siddiqui died, a few days after he recanted his threat of suicide, Siddiqui complained of a “sore, bleeding throat but was refused medical attention.” Instead, Siddiqui was forced to run laps. While running, he collapsed, and his drill instructor allegedly slapped him. At this point, according to the report, Siddiqui leapt up, ran through a door and flung himself over an exterior stairwell. He died in a hospital several hours later.
The Siddiqui family does not believe that their son’s death resulted from mental instability or lack of preparedness. Instead, they allege that Gunnery Sgt. Felix hazed and abused him, and that the discriminatory mistreatment drove their son to the point of suicide.
Their lawsuit blames the recruiter for failing to adequately inform Raheel of the alleged prior mistreatment of another Muslim cadet at the hands of Siddiqui’s future drill instructor. It also blames several other officers in Siddiqui’s chain of command for allowing Gunnery Sgt. Felix to remain at Parris Island, as well as allowing Siddiqui to end up in Sgt. Felix’s platoon. Lastly, Siddiqui’s family takes aim at the Marine Corps at large, accusing it of being responsible for creating a culture in which hazing, discrimination and violence are at tolerated.
Since Siddiqui’s death, 20 Parris Island personnel have been disciplined, but only two people connected to Siddiqui’s case face courts-martial, according to Task and Purpose. Gunnery Sgt. Felix is one of these individuals; the other, Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Kissoon, was the commanding officer at the Parris Island training facility who kept the Sgt. Felix in charge of Siddiqui’s platoon. (RELATED: Marine Drill Instructor Found Not Guilty In Parris Island Hazing Case)
The Daily Mail reports that Sgt. Felix’s court martial is scheduled to begin at the end of this month.
According to The Detroit News, LTC Kissoon was relieved of his command after Siddiqui’s death, but Marine Corps officials have stated that this decision was due to “prior allegations” and “made before Siddiqui died.” Kissoon’s court martial is currently set to begin in March.