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Ex-Florida A&M University band director: I had 'zero tolerance' for hazing

Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion was laid to rest Wednesday in his Georgia hometown. Blayne Alexander of NBC station WXIA of Atlanta reports.

ATLANTA — The former director of Florida A&M University's marching band, who was fired last week after the death of a band member in a suspected hazing incident, said Thursday that he always enforced a "zero tolerance" policy toward hazing and that his dismissal was premature.

In an interview with NBC station WXIA of Atlanta, Julian White, who had directed the famous Marching 100 since 1998, said he still does not know why drum major Robert Champion collapsed Nov. 19 at a hotel in Orlando, Fla., after a football game. He later died at an Orlando hospital.

• Read the full report from WXIA's Blayne Alexander at 11alive.com

Authorities have yet to issue an official cause of death, but they have said hazing likely was involved.

"What (the students) did, I don't know," White said. "I think that is something that is part of the ongoing investigation."

White said he didn't ask others students what had happened because he was preoccupied with getting Champion to the hospital.

Two students have filed lawsuits claiming they were hazed during White's 13 years in charge of the world-renowned band. White received notice from the university that he would be dismissed, a ruling he is appealing.

Another person claims hazing by Florida A&M band

"In all cases where I suspect there's hazing involved, I take immediate action," White said. "My job is to report it to the proper authorities, which in this case is the university police department, and that I have done."

White's comments came a day after Champion was buried Wednesday in Decatur, Ga., his hometown. He was wearing his Florida A&M University Marching 100 uniform and held a baton in the open casket.

This article includes reporting by NBC station WXIA at 11alive.com and msnbc.com staff.