Thirteen people have been charged for their role in the hazing death of Florida A&M University (FAMU) band drum major Robert Champion. According to The Washington Post, Eleven FAMU band members were charged with a third degree felony charge of hazing resulting in death and two others face misdemeanor counts of first-degree hazing.
The 26-year-old Champion passed away in November soon after taking part in an initiation routine that involved him taking multiple strikes to the chest and other parts of his body.
Champion’s family has taken a strong stand against the deeply-ingrained hazing culture at the Tallahassee-based, historically black university. Champion’s mother said that she wished more serious charges were leveled after her son’s death, saying that she “thought it should send a harsher message.” Champion’s family has already filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the owner of the charter bus company and the driver who allegedly stood by while the hazing occurred. State Attorney Lawson Lamar called the recent hazing death “an American tragedy.”
Florida A&M’s band is world-renowned and is referred to as the “Marching 100,” although it is comprised of around 375 members. In November, the school’s band traveled with the football team to a game in Orlando against rival Bethune-Cookman, and was staying at a hotel nearby. Some have alleged that Champion took part in the initiation ritual called “Crossing Bus C,” where a band member tries to run down the center aisle of a bus while being punched, kicked, and hit by senior band members. Champion allegedly was vomiting and complained of trouble breathing before he passed away. Medical examiners concluded that “within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body.”
Although hazing is a popular means of initiation in many organizations across the United States, and especially in higher education, it can have disastrous consequences.
Florida’s new anti-hazing law, passed in 2011, illustrates the serious consequences that perpetrators can now face if caught for being complicit in hazing rituals that go awry.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a hazing or other kind of accident that led to serious injury or death, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue compensation for your loss.