FAMU Drum Major Death Ruled Homicide

The investigation into the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion has been ruled a homicide. Medical examiners in Orlando say champion was severely beaten in a hazing ritual.

Robert Champion

Robert Champion, a healthy 26-year-old college band drum major, was dead within an hour last month after he was hazed on a band bus. That's the conclusion of Florida medical examiners.

Their report revealed Champion had "extensive contusions of his chest arms shoulder and back", and "blunt trauma" from his hazing attack made his body hemorrhage and go into shock. He bled to death internally.

Ruling his death a homicide means his hazers could be charged with murder.

"You just kind of wonder what kind of people are these people that are doing this?"

Pam and Robert Champion, Sr., the drum major's parents, have been demanding full prosecution to send a clear message about hazing.

"The one who put his hand on, did the beating, should be dealt with harshly," said Robert Champion, Sr.

Champion's death spotlighted a systemic, 40-year history of hazing within Florida A&M's famed marching band.

Physical abuse, including beatings with fists and objects, were part of initiations into band sub-cultures that even the band's director compared to gangs.

Dr. Julian White, the band's director, is now on paid leave. He says band members told him right after the attack that a number of them had repeatedly punched Champion in a hazing ritual.

When asked if Champion ran a gauntlet on the bus, Dr. White said, "That's what I'm told, that the initiation was running the gauntlet from the front of the bus to the back of the bus."

On Monday, the school's trustees will vote on the recommendation of Florida's governor to suspend school president Dr. James Ammons. Hundreds of students have protested his possible suspension, a move now made more likely that Champion's death has been ruled a homicide.

Under Florida law, the homicide ruling in Champion's case could mean charges with second degree murder. Conviction carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.

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