The Pentagon is investigating an Air Force pathologist who said the military prematurely dismissed the possibility that Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was shot in the head, officials said Tuesday.
Government investigators concluded that Brown died of multiple injuries sustained in the crash of the Air Force plane in which he was a passenger. The plane slammed into a mountain in Croatia in April 1996, killing all 35 aboard.
Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a deputy medical examiner at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, is the subject of an internal investigation and is under orders not to leave his office area during working hours, said Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the institute.
Kelly said the investigation is meant to determine whether any “internal policies or procedures were violated” by Cogswell.
“There has been no disciplinary action,” Kelly said.
In a written statement issued later, the institute said the internal investigation “is not limited to Lieutenant Colonel Cogswell but is meant to be a comprehensive review of our administrative policies and procedures surrounding this case.”
Cogswell said last week that an unusual wound at the top of Brown’s head could have been a bullet hole, and an autopsy should have been done to find out. Cogswell did not participate in the external examination of Brown’s body after it was returned from Croatia. No autopsy was conducted.
Col. William T. Gormley, the assistant armed forces medical examiner who conducted the external examination of Brown’s corpse, was quoted in an Air Force statement Friday as saying he had ruled out the possibility of a gunshot wound.
“Due to the initial appearance of Brown’s injuries we carefully considered the possibility of a gunshot wound,” Gormley said. “However, scientific data, including X-rays, ruled out that possibility.”
The Tribune-Review of Greensburg, Pa., which first reported Cogswell’s comments, quoted a second pathologist Tuesday saying he, too, thought the skull wound looked like a bullet hole.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Gormley said he agreed that the Brown head injury “had the superficial appearance of a gunshot entry wound.” But a thorough examination of the entire body demonstrated no exit wounds, bullets or bullet fragments.