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FAMU marching band members to face charges in drum major hazing death

Following the death of 26-year-old drum major Robert Champion, Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., discussed the decision by Florida A&M's trustees to ignore calls from the state governor and other educators to suspend its president.

Five months after Robert Champion, a marching band drum major, died aboard a charter bus, allegedly after being hazed, prosecutors are poised to file charges against at least five band members detectives say are responsible for his death.

Prosecutors plan to hold a press conference on Wednesday.

Danielle Tavernier, a spokeswoman for the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office, told the Orlando Sentinel that there will be a range of felony and misdemeanor charges. Law enforcement officials told the Sentinel that they interviewed more than 50 witnesses.


No arrests had been made by Tuesday afternoon.

Robert Champion, 26, was found unresponsive aboard the bus in November after the annual Florida Classic football game in Orlando. Florida A&M’s football team had lost.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide in the course of hazing by the university’s celebrated Marching 100 band. Detectives told The Associated Press that he suffered blunt trauma blows and died from shock caused by severe bleeding. Hazing that involves bodily harm is a third-degree felony in Florida.  

In a six-minute 911 call obtained by the AP, an unidentified caller asked the dispatcher for an ambulance, saying that Champion had just vomited.

"His eyes are open, but he's not responding," the caller said. Another person took the phone and said, “He is cold.”  

Shortly after, the call was disconnected.

Four students were dismissed after the alleged hazing, but Champion’s parents were frustrated that no charges had been filed.

Witnesses have told Champion’s parents that he might have been targeted because he opposed the culture of hazing that they say has long existed in the band. It was also suggested to them that he was targeted because he was gay and a candidate for chief drum major.

But Champion's parents dismissed the notion that his sexual orientation triggered this incident.

"The main reason that we heard is because he was against hazing, and he was totally against it," Champion's father, Robert Champion Sr. told the AP.

His parents have sued the bus company.

Robert Champion, an FAMU drum major, died from blunt force trauma on a bus after the band had performed at a football game. Today his parents said their son was gay, but this wasn't a hate crime. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Parents of Florida A&M hazing victim to sue bus company 

Since Champion’s death, other hazing allegations have emerged. Freshman Bria Hunter told WFTV that 11 days before the drum major’s death, she was rushed to the emergency room because her leg had gone numb. It turned out her thigh was broken.

She explained that she allowed the hazing, "So we can be accepted."

Three band members have been arrested for beating Hunter, according to the AP.

Meantime, the university’s longtime band director, Julian White, remains on paid leave. The university’s trustees have voted to strengthen its anti-hazing policy, requiring that everyone connected to the school – even volunteers and vendors – report any hazing they hear about within 24 hours.

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