Florida medical examiner: FAMU drum major death is a homicide.

The Florida state medical examiner has declared that FAMU drum major Robert Champion died of hazing-related injuries and is calling his death as a homicide.

According to the AJC:

A Florida A&M University drum major was severely beaten in a hazing incident last month and died within an hour, the state medical examiner said Friday in declaring it a homicide.

Robert Champion, 26, had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and internal bleeding that caused him to go into shock, which killed him, the office said.

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.

State and local authorities are investigating Champion’s death. Any death involving hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida, but so far no charges have been filed. Three male band members were arrested in a separate probe into the recent beating of a female member whose thigh bone was broken.

Witnesses told 911 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 described Champion as “previously healthy” 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.

The toxicology report was negative for drugs and alcohol and there was no injury to the internal organs.

Champion’s father, Robert Champion Sr., said he knew his son had been hazed.

“We just need to figure out what we need to do now to get the hazing under control,” Champion told The Associated Press from his home in suburban Atlanta.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

38 comments Add your comment


December 16th, 2011
10:31 pm

No injury to the internal organs, yet internal bleeding severe enough to cause Robert Champion to go into shock and die?

Maybe it’s because I’m not a doctor, but I’m having trouble reconciling those two statements.

Atlanta Mom

December 16th, 2011
10:33 pm

So much for those folks who thought we were jumping to conclusions about hazing and cause of death.


December 16th, 2011
10:51 pm

Those responsible need to face criminal charges, and until they are found, the band program should cease to exist.


December 16th, 2011
11:08 pm

Well, I guess some of those big, tough band members who thought it great fun to gang up and beat someone down will one day see who the real tough guys are – in prison. I don’t think it will go well for them….

More fun and games: Teacher asked why she skipped meeting responds by stabbing fellow teacher sixteen times with a screwdriver. School district is “looking into discipline” for the assailant.

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up: http://www.lohud.com/article/20111216/NEWS05/312160023/Shocked-Poughkeepsie-school-deals-stabbing-teacher-colleague-faces-felony-counts

Atlanta Media Guy

December 17th, 2011
12:32 am

Girl beaten and kicked by several others at Lithonia Middle School. The link to piece is here.
Between, Arabia Mountain and whatever happened there Thursday, the SWD Band stuff, head butting and an assault at a Middle School. I’d say DCSS has had a tough week. Welcome to Atlanta Dr. Atkinson.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

December 17th, 2011
3:35 am

What a damn shame!

CONDOLENCES to the Champion family on their tragic loss.


December 17th, 2011
7:37 am

What a tragedy for the family. And it could have been stopped, like the assaults at Penn State. if the adults who knew about the kind of behavior had cared.

The assailants should get life in prison. Yeah, it would ruin their college experience, but heck–they KILLED a guy.

Perhaps FAMU’s trustees and the Board in Florida will get some starch in their shorts now, and see that it never happens again. Disband the band for 6 years, fire the director, assistant director, and the President, and jail all those involved immediately. Anything less is an insult. (This is hard for me to say, as an 18 year band parent–3 kids for 6 years each) It must be STOPPED.


December 17th, 2011
7:55 am

Why are band members subject to hazing to begin with? I expected hazing in a fraternity, but a band? What’s the point?


December 17th, 2011
7:58 am

This goes on all over the country at HBC and within black fraternities and sororities. There has been a large push for eliminating it within greek systems for years by university administrations and national fraternal organizations, but that has seemingly only applied to majority white ones. I know that in the late 80’s and early 90’s my fraternity was under constant threat of sanctions for any hazing incidents (and properly so) while black fraternities openly hazed their pledges. My experience tells me that when this type of activity goes unchecked it escalates. Each succesive class has to do a little more than was done to them, until it becomes way over the top and even lethal. We need to be able to expose and eliminate this activity for all groups, not just the ones that are politically correct to address. By the way please don’t reply with cited incidents of white fraternity hazing incidents. They absolutely happen, and absolutely are wrong. The difference is that they are done without the knowledge of the university or the fraternities national organization. There are examples of institutional band hazing incidents at schools that are not HBC though. That is an interesting wrinkle to the conversation.


December 17th, 2011
8:03 am

Robert Champion was a 26 year old senior at FAMU. Comes now the information that he was beaten to death. Why would anyone believe a college senior would be hazed? And why would anyone believe this was just a hazing incident gone wrong? And, why haven’t those responsible for this even been arrested? Something stinks to high heaven here.

Beverly Fraud

December 17th, 2011
8:08 am

I believe the etymology dates back to the French, taking its cue from Latin. Not sure all the particulars of that, but yes when you BEAT SOMEONE TO DEATH, that’s usually what most people refer to as “homocide.”


December 17th, 2011
8:10 am

Let’s see, a fraternity distributes a questionaire with the infamous “rape question” gets quickly shut down by the National Chapter. It will be interesting to see if FAMU has a similar backbone with regards to this out of control group who have put members in the hospital and the morgue.



December 17th, 2011
8:42 am

Lee – 11:08

Of course they are “looking into discipline” for the assaliant. If they just outright fired her Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and their ilk would be at that school stirring up trouble quicker than you could say “racism”.


December 17th, 2011
9:43 am

Dekalb taxpayer@Atlanta Media Guy

December 17th, 2011
10:06 am

DeKallb has around 20 Prevention/Intervention Specialist (salary with benefits close to $1,800,000 a year in compensation) to prevent violence and bullying. Only a few are certified teachers and most are not certified as social workers or counselors either. A number are “family and friends”. This program desperately needs to be overhauled.

Questions taxpayers need to ask and have answered:
Where is the accountability for this group?
Just exactly what is this group supposed to accomplish and what does it actually accomplish?
Do other systems have this number of Prevention/Intervention employees?
Do other systems average $80,000 a year including benefits for their Prevention/intervention Specialists (our teachers average $65,000 a year including benefits)?
Where is the salary scale for the Prevention/Intervention specialists?
What are the certification requirement for Prevention/intervention specialists in other systems?
Does DeKalb have any certification requirements for our Prevention/Intervention specialists?


December 17th, 2011
10:14 am

My question ….why isn’t the dynamic duo of Jackson/Sharpton out protesting sub-culture within a culture of black on black hazing at HBU campuses? I guess when mass media gets their information wrong or its not portrayed to their likening, they will charge the stage. Black student demoralized and brutalizing other black students. Civil rights leaders are rolling over in their graves. There is never a good outcome when violence is involved. Totally disgusting.

Miss Management

December 17th, 2011
10:21 am

Beaten to death. Homicide. That’s exactly what it was. I hope they catch the criminals and punish them fully. I am so sorry for the Champion family. That’s a very deep hurt. It’s impossible to reconcile just how evil people can be. Especially when it’s evil visited on your child.


December 17th, 2011
10:44 am

If he was the DRUM MAJOR why was he hazed? Hazing is usually reserve for the new pledges. Having to be beat to become part of a society or clique is mind-boggling. I’m sure the definition of hazing is not homicide. Since these culprits like violence so much, they will get plenty in prison, then we will see who the big man on campus or cell block is!


December 17th, 2011
12:03 pm

Carlosgvv @8:03 AM:

Have to agree something is weird that a 26 year old senior would get hazed… But doesn’t change fact that it happened. Hope this development, that this incident, unfortunately, was a homicide, will convince people like “darattler” on here a couple days ago, that denying it will no longer work. And trying to deflect blame to other schools, like FSU, is just silly. Like a kid that gets in trouble saying ” little brother Johnny did it too.”


December 17th, 2011
1:32 pm

@ Ashley, from the Blogs I’ve been reading, they claim he dropped his mace during the performance and I guess they felt he should be “punished” for that. I feel the same you did, like why would a DM be hazed. Let alone a 26 year old DM. Oh well, I guess we’ll find out soon. One of those students are gonna sing like a bird. Here’s a list of hazing deaths through the year with Frats. Sorts. and the one marching band. http://www.hanknuwer.com/hazingdeaths.html

bootney farnsworth

December 17th, 2011
1:37 pm

seems at least on Fla ME can determine the obvious

bootney farnsworth

December 17th, 2011
1:43 pm

@ Dekalb taxpayer

I’ll go ahead and be the heavy and state the obvious.

the prevention/intervention folks are worthless until society
actually starts to give a damn about black on black crime.

slogans, pep rallys, and fancy chants are useless until society
decides that “diversity” in all things in not necessarily good.

bootney farnsworth

December 17th, 2011
1:44 pm

so pissed about this I can’t type correctly


December 17th, 2011
1:51 pm

When is the AJC going to report on Turn Out Thursday, the near riot that happened at Arabia Mountain High School this past Thursday, needing 10 DeKalb police cars to respond to it? Why is the DCSS Central office trying to hide it from the public?


bootney farnsworth

December 17th, 2011
2:01 pm

back in the day I played HS football.

in my freshman year I was made to
shower last
provide towels to seniors
call seniors sir, regardless of playing status
clean up afterwards
run errands
run laps
be last into/out of the training room (unless really injured)

I was called names, had my gender and orientation challenged,
told my girlfriend needed a real man, ect.

right up until homecoming, when it all ended at kickoff. and
never picked up again for the remainder of my HS career.

I was challenged mentally to see if I had the mental toughness
to be a part of the team. once I passed the test, it was over
and done for good. I was never struck, not once.

THAT was hazing.

what happened at FAMU -

THAT is manslaughter. possibly murder, since they planned to
administer a beat down.

bootney farnsworth

December 17th, 2011
2:04 pm

@ what

when hell freezes over.
didn’t you get the memo? only white and latino kids cause
gang trouble.

DeKalb is imploding as badly as city of Atlanta, and nobody
wants to admit it.


December 17th, 2011
2:13 pm

Turnup Thursday at Arabia Mountain High School: When AMHS was googled, this term showed up buried in Tweets related to the school and incident yesterday.

Here is the link:

Unbelievable what AMHS students are tweeting during the school day…true ignorance.

Truth in Moderation

December 17th, 2011
2:44 pm

“Robert Champion was a 26 year old senior at FAMU. Comes now the information that he was beaten to death. Why would anyone believe a college senior would be hazed? And why would anyone believe this was just a hazing incident gone wrong? And, why haven’t those responsible for this even been arrested? Something stinks to high heaven here.”

You are right on the money! First, was Champion a full time student? He’s 26 and still hadn’t graduated? This isn’t the kind of person who would be hazed. IT WOULD BE A FRESHMAN. This is outright homicide by beatdown. Why is the news running with this “hazing” slug? Who is being protected? What did Champion know? Is there any evidence of some kind of Sandusky thing going on? Why isn’t the MSM doing their job?


December 17th, 2011
3:01 pm

Turnup Thursday, this is the very reason why decent hardworking parents don’t want their kids going to urban schools. Some of those tweets were disgusting and disturbing. Thank God I went to high-school when the word thug and criminal weren’t part of our vernacular….the occasional juvenile delinquent wasn’t this appalling. Why didn’t I read about this in the AJC?

Former SPARK parent

December 17th, 2011
6:00 pm

Maureen, this Arabia Mountain story should be on the front page of the AJC. Is everyone already on vacation break? Or are you still reporting news?


December 17th, 2011
6:14 pm

News to some. Everyday behavior to others.

mountain man

December 17th, 2011
6:15 pm

It seems like the last time this was posted I caught some grief for recommending the death penalty. Now that it has been ruled a homicide, I hope those responsible are charged with premeditated murder, and the death penalty is sought.


December 17th, 2011
6:57 pm

@science teacher you can have severe bleeding into the muscles, causing large contusions. Yes it can happen in blunt force trauma

Good Mother

December 18th, 2011
11:34 am

Homocide is spelled M U R D E R.

Not H A Z I N G.

That’s the issue. Many FAMU alum think putting gang-like beat down and rape on some soul is hazing.

l am praying all those punchers, kickers and murderers and rapists get caught and go for a long field trip to prison — where the new boys and girls get “hazed.”

Disband the band for six years as catlady says? I think more. Twenty years. We need a new generation of students to grow up without the knowledge and influence others have on them. All the “money” the band makes can go straight to hell — along with the beat em up gang members in darattler…

To the Champions, my sincerest sympathies.


December 18th, 2011
2:26 pm

@ Good Mother. No, it’s spelled “HOMICIDE.”


December 19th, 2011
11:46 am

@ jdawg….you are wrong on so many levels..
Hazing at white a black schools happen and it is know at every level of the administration..PERIOD…
Most of the people in the adminstration went through some form of hazing when they came through college and joined whatever group they joined…so there is no separation…the universities and the nation organizations knew.
THe difference here is this RED DOG order is NOT a sactioned fraternity, it has not national presence, that is how is slides undetected…UNTIL now along with the other groups that have been named..
Is hazing wrong…YES…does itneed to be stopped …YES…how do you stop it…MAKE both side accoutable for their actions.
If you get caught participating in hazing you are expelled, if you are the “hazer”…you are expelled and should face judicial penalties.
If you are on scholarship, pay the money back to the school.
EVERYONE involved should receive some sort of punishment, but the least of the punishment should be expulsion….PERIOD..

Ole Guy

December 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

The culprit is NOT hazing…the culprit…the “systemic cultural disease” within a generation which has completely lost any connection to decency…is a direct reflection on a gen which has never known accountability, nor the very concept of consequences for ones’ actions. As much as many appear to disdain my constant drumbeat of a return to the “ole ways” in dealing with, and managing kids, events, such as this (and they are repeated, in many many ways across the Country, on an almost daily basis) provide more than ample evidence that the current system of “endless second chances, psuedo achievements in the face of abject mediocrity, etc…simply provide yet another slippery slope into generational (and ultimately National) oblivian. Let’s howbout you folks consider pulling your heads out of the warm dark recesses of denial and start getting tough with these kids.

Bernita gilliam

December 22nd, 2011
9:24 am

If this had happened to an African American student at a predominately white institution, we would all be enraged. Let’s raise our voices loudly and clearly. We need to suspend this band for a few years, and the FAMU president needs to resign.