Drill sergeant who assaulted Muslim Marine recruit probed for disturbing incident

Last Updated Sep 15, 2016 7:36 AM EDT

Parris Island in South Carolina is the notoriously tough boot camp for Marine Corps recruits, but an investigation has uncovered cases in which Muslim recruits appear to have been singled out for abuse -- with deadly consequences, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.

Every class of Marine recruits get a speech from their drill instructor. 

“Physical or verbal abuse by a Marine or recruit will not be tolerated,” a drill sergeant at Parris Island said.

According to Marine Corps investigators, Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Pakistani-American, committed suicide last March by throwing himself down a stairwell after being slapped by a drill sergeant.

The investigation said that “assault was likely the impetus for [Siddiqui’s] ... jumping from the building.”  It also found “clear indicators that he should have been disqualified” from training because he had threatened to commit suicide five days earlier.

“The family does not believe that their son, a patriotic young man, an intelligent young man, would take his own life. To them, it makes no sense,” said Shiraz Khan, the Siddiqui family attorney.

Khan says there isn’t enough evidence to back up the Marine Corps claims.

“When there’s clear findings of hazing, maltreatment and abuse, how they can still say this was a suicide?” he said.

The same drill sergeant who assaulted Siddiqui was already under investigation for an earlier incident in which he allegedly ordered another Muslim recruit into an industrial clothes dryer. The recruit told investigators two drill sergeants accused him of being a terrorist and demanded to know if he was part of 9/11. When the recruit denied he was working for a terrorist organization, the drill sergeants closed the dryer and ran it for about 30 seconds. They repeated that at least two more times, burning the recruit on his neck and shoulders. The recruit testified he could smell alcohol on the drill sergeants’ breath.

“My intuition said that something was wrong,” Michigan’s Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said.

Dingell has been looking into the circumstances surrounding private Siddiqui’s death, visiting Parris Island last weekend.

“I know that this young Muslim from my district should be with us today … People have to be tough in the military but there’s a line. You’ve crossed it when you are putting someone in a clothes dryer,” she said.

“This hazing, maltreatment that led to his ultimate death was during recruit training, not on the battlefield. ... It was at home. That’s the problem,” Khan said.

The investigation found “multiple derelictions of duty” by the officers and sergeants running recruit training at Parris Island. Twenty Marines have been singled out for possible disciplinary action, including criminal charges.