Entries in Drum Major (4)


Hazing Assault on FAMU Drum Major Detailed in Documents

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Over 2,000 pages of evidence from the investigation into Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion's death were released by the Florida District Attorney's Office and they deliver a blow-by-blow of the night's events.

They also describe a culture that considers repeated "hot seat" beatings and the final "crossing over" gauntlet that killed Champion as rites of passage.

Band members said that the band director and bus driver were not on the bus for the "crossing over," but that they were sometimes up front watching movies during the "hot seat" beatings.

Jonathan Boyce, the head band member now charged with felony hazing, told detectives that Champion "was wanting to do it [cross over] all season," but Boyce had been reluctant to let him.  Champion could not participate without Boyce's permission, as dictated by the band's internal code of hierarchy.

The band was in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 19, 2011 for the last game of the football season.  Boyce asked Champion if he still wanted to participate.

"I was like, 'Do you still want to do it?'  So he was like, 'Yes,'" Boyce told detectives.  "I was like, 'Fine.'"

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's famed "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game.  His death was ruled a homicide and 11 people have been charged with felony hazing and two have been charged with misdemeanor hazing in connection to Champion's death.

That night, Boyce said he was in a friend's room at the hotel when he got a call that Champion was going to do it, so he rushed to the bus to "try to save him," according to his interview with the police.

Meanwhile, Champion had begun the hazing.  He was shirtless as dictated by the band's rules --women wear only sports bras as they "cross over" -- and he was the third band member to try to make his way to the back of bus that night.

Ryan Dean, another band member indicted for felony hazing, told detectives that he yelled into Champion's ear, "Come on, push through."  A woman was holding Champion back as fists rained down on him.

Keon Hollis went with Champion to the bus for the "crossing over."  When asked to explain the process, Hollis said, "Basically, get on the bus and you have to take your shirt off and you basically have to make it from the front of the bus to the back of the bus." 

Hollis told the detective that the goal is to "just get through it as quick as you can."

"They was using hands, straps, think [I] saw a comb," he said.  Hollis said they used drum sticks and kicks as well.

At the end of the ordeal, Hollis walked back to the front of the bus, through applause and "hooting and hollering" from his band mates.  When he got outside the bus, he threw up.

While Hollis tried to compose himself, Champion started down the aisle.  He battled through the storm of fists and feet with a female band member holding him back to prolong the punishment.

At its most severe, Champion collapsed into a seat, prompting a band member to brace himself on seat backs and jump up and down on the drum major for an estimated 15 seconds.  Champion was greeted with a flurry of seven to 10 punches when he pushed himself free and resumed his death march down the bus aisle.

At least one band member jumped from seat to seat to get to the back of the bus to get another chance at Champion.

"By the time I got there he was maybe like a foot or two away from the back of the bus," Boyce said.  "So I climbed over the seats all the way to the back."

When he reached Champion, Boyce said he grabbed him "to try to keep everybody off of him" and "put my body around his body" to try to stop the beating.

Moments later, Champion touched the wall indicating that he had made it to the back.

Champion asked for water and they gave him Gatorade.  He complained that he was having trouble breathing and that he couldn't see, though his eyes were wide open.

Band members got him to the steps of the bus, but he continued to say that he could not breathe.

"I checked him, he wasn't saying anything…he wasn't responsive or anything," band member Darryl Cearnel told detectives.  Cearnel said he had first aid training.  "They was calling his name and [he] wasn't saying anything.  And I checked his pulse."

They had Champion lay on the ground and someone called 911 while Cearnel did CPR.  Moments later an ambulance arrived.  Champion died on the way to the hospital.

Though band members told detectives that Champion "never approved" of the hazing rituals, they also said that in order to be considered for leadership positions, one had to cross over.

"Crossing over" was only one aspect of the band's hazing traditions.  Multiple band members told investigators that they were routinely called to the back of the bus by a tap on the shoulder by older students for a "hot seat" after doing something wrong.

In the "hot seat" they would have a blanket thrown over them and they were pummeled with fists, drum sticks and bass drum mallets.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FAMU Hazing Charges Expected in Drum Major's Death

On the day Robert Champion died, he texted his parents a photograph of himself with a young boy from a children's marching band. (Champion Family Photo)(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Criminal charges are expected to be filed Wednesday against members of the Florida A&M University marching band who were involved in the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion last November.

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's famed "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. The death was ruled a homicide and police said hazing contributed to his death.

An autopsy revealed that he died of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma. Officials said that he had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back.

The charges will be announced at a news conference at the state attorney's office Wednesday following a six-month investigation.

Some band members have said that Champion died after participating in a rite of passage called "crossing bus C," a ritual where new band members are beaten as they walk from the back to the front of the bus.

Four students were dismissed from the university after Champion's death, but were later reinstated pending the investigation's completion. The school's band director Julian White was fired, but later reinstated and put on administrative leave.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FAMU Drum Major Targeted Because He Opposed Hazing: Lawyer

Robert Champion Sr. (L) and Pam Champion, along with their attorney. (ABC News)(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The parents of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, who police believe died after a violent hazing, said Tuesday that their son may have been hazed more severely than other students because of his opposition to the practice.

"Robert Champion was the poster child of anti-hazing. He threatened the very institution of hazing in this band," said attorney Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion's family.

During the family's investigation into what happened to their son they discovered that Champion was gay, but also concluded that was not a reason for his alleged hazing.

"This is not a hate crime," Chestnut said during a news conference Tuesday. "This is a hazing crime. That is what we are here to say today."

"We don't have all the answers and all the details," Pam Champion said Tuesday. "My son, he loved his music. He loved the band. His demeanor was more like following all the rules, doing what you should do as a band member. He was a perfectionist. ... He expected everybody to do the same."

Robert Champion, 26, was a member of the college's "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. Authorities said they believed that hazing was involved.

Sources told ABC News on Tuesday that Chestnut had been interviewing witnesses for a legal case when he discovered that Champion was gay. Champion's parents were vaguely aware of his sexuality, but did not know that there were rumors of a connection to his death.

"Robert did have an alternative lifestyle," Chestnut said Tuesday. He said witnesses said that was not a primary factor in the hazing, however. "It's difficult to know the true motives of every person."

The school fired band director Julian White and suspended all performance and engagements of any bands and ensembles. White was later reinstated and put on administrative leave. Four band members also were dismissed from FAMU, but then reinstated.

During the news conference on Tuesday, Champion's parents said they planned to sue Fabulous Coach Lines, the company that owns the bus on which the hazing allegedly took place, claiming negligence and wrongful death.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hazing Eyed in Death of Florida A&M Drum Major

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The Florida drum major who died shortly after performing in a halftime show this past weekend may have been the victim of hazing, police said Tuesday.

Robert Champion, 26, was a student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He was found dead on the band’s bus Saturday night.

Ginette Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Orange County, Fla., sheriff’s office, told ABC News that investigators are still conducting interviews with members of the school band, football team and others who were at the Florida Classic football game that night.

The drum major was found unresponsive on the bus in Orlando Saturday night, and later declared dead at Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando. Initial results from the medical examiner were inconclusive, Rodriguez said. The sheriff’s department is awaiting further results.

School officials are awaiting autopsy results.

Friends of Champion told investigators the drum major had trouble breathing before he lost consciousness. Police initially said they do not suspect foul play, but the investigation is ongoing.

Champion’s father, also named Robert, said his son was in good shape, reported.

“I think he was in pretty good condition. He ate and he trained and had no medical condition that I know of,” Champion said of his son.

Pamela Champion, Robert’s mother, said she is waiting to hear back from the medical examiner before speaking publicly about her son.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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