The state medical examiner’s office has ruled that the death of a Florida A&M University drum major last month was a homicide after concluding that the student was severely beaten in a hazing incident and died within an hour.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Friday evening saying it planned to work with the State Attorney’s office “to identify the charges that are applicable” in the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion.
The medical examiner’s office in Orlando found that Champion had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and internal bleeding that caused him to go into shock, which killed him.
“The Champion family’s worst fears were realized tonight when their son Robert’s death was ruled a homicide by hazing,” the victim’s family said in a statement Friday evening. “We now hope that all those responsible for this act will swiftly be brought to justice. Our goal is that no other family will have to live through this pain.”
“We don’t want to stop the music,” the statement said, “we want to stop the hazing.”
Champion’s Nov. 19 death and the severe beating of another band member during a hazing ritual three weeks earlier have brought new scrutiny to a culture of hazing within the Tallahassee school’s famed Marching 100 band.
State and local authorities are investigating the death. Any death involving hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida, but no charges have been filed so far. Three male band members were arrested in a separate probe involving the recent beating of a female member whose thigh bone was broken.
Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard a band bus outside an Orlando hotel after the school’s football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman.
The report by Dr. Sara Irrgang, an associate medical examiner, described Champion as “previously healthy” and showing “no evidence of natural disease” except for a slightly enlarged heart. Immediately after the hazing, Champion complained of thirst and fatigue, then loss of vision and signs of shock, the report said.
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