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FAMU drum major's death ruled a homicide

The drum major of Florida A&M University's famous marching band died of hazing, according to authorities who ruled his death a homicide Friday.

Robert Champion, 26, of Decatur, Ga., died Nov. 19 after a football game in Orlando, Fla. The Orange County Medical Examiner's office said in a report obtained Friday by NBC News that Champion died of "blunt force trauma sustained during a hazing incident."


From the beginning, authorities suspected that hazing was involved in Champion's death. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at the time that criminal charges were possible.

Julian White, the band's longtime director, was fired four days later for what the university said was his inability to stop hazing in the band and the music department.

FAMU has a history of problems with hazing:

  • In 2001, a band member was hospitalized because of hazing. 
  • In 2006, fraternity brothers stood trial for alleged hazing. 
  • Earlier this year, the school confirmed that as many as 30 band members were released because of their involvement in hazing.
  • In October, police arrested three band members on charges that they beat a female band member so severely during hazing rituals that they broke her thigh.

Another person claims hazing by Florida A&M band

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said this week that its investigation of Champion's death had uncovered possible employee fraud and misconduct. An FDLE spokesman wouldn't discuss details of the investigation, but he told NBC station WESH of Orlando that it will now be handled separately from the criminal investigation of Champion's death. 

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NBC station WESH of Orkando, Fla., contributed to this report by M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.