Robert Champion (pictured above), was severely beaten in a hazing incident which took place Nov. 19, 2011. A ritual that’s rampant in the Florida A&M University marching band. Champion was vying to be lead drum major and wanted the respect he could earn by enduring a brutal ritual known as “crossing over.”
The 26-year-old was found unresponsive on board a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after the school’s football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman college.
Investigators believe Champion was punched and pummeled repeatedly on board the bus by other band members in a hazing incident gone horribly wrong. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that Champion vomited and struggled to breathe before he collapsed. Champion had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and internal bleeding that caused him to go into shock, which killed him.
Immediately after the hazing, Champion complained of thirst (due to loss of blood internally) and fatigue, then loss of vision and signs of shock, the report said.
Champion’s death is the latest in a history of injurious hazing incidents at the historically black college. In 2001, Florida A&M University band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage after being beaten with a paddle “around 300 times,” investigators reported.
And three weeks before Champion’s death on Nov. 19, a female band member’s thigh bone was broken when she was severely beaten. Three male band members were arrested in that incident.
Champion’s parents, Robert and Pam Champion, Sr. (pictured below), have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Florida A&M University’s board of directors, which the family says has covered up a “culture of hazing” at the school for many years.
Thirteen band members have been charged with causing Champion’s death on Nov. 19. Eleven defendants face a count of third-degree felony hazing, and two others have been charged with misdemeanors. The team has been suspended at least until next year, and its director resigned earlier this month.