A newly released account of the hazing death of Florida A&M student, Robert Champion, has shed light on the story that has tarnished the school’s reputation. Champion, who died a year ago, was viciously beaten by members of the famed “Marching 100” group.
The detailed description of what led to the youngster’s death was published in the Tampa Bay Montgomery, and unveils the vicious attack:
“Champion had one last challenge: endure a painful, clandestine ritual that was both intensely important inside the band and illegal in the eyes of the law.
He didn’t have to do it. He volunteered. Bus C was reserved for the percussionists, mostly upperclassmen, the largest and rowdiest section in the band, and if you wanted their respect and loyalty, you had to pass their test.
The police called it hazing. State law called it a felony. The marching band called it Crossing Bus C. Touch the back wall and it’s over. Two people had crossed already. Two people survived. Now it was Robert Champion’s turn.
From the back of the bus, someone shouted: “Send the n—– through.”
Champion, 26, was said to be against hazing, but knew that he had to deal with the gruesome beating in order to officially be accepted into the lauded group which had performed at big events like the Super Bowl. Flanked by darkness, those hazed are approached by the leader on the bus, as outlined in the rest of the story:
“Robert Champion stripped off his white T-shirt, adrenaline surging, and ran into the dark tangle of fists and feet and drumsticks. [drum major Keon] Hollis couldn’t see what was happening to Champion from his seat in the back. But he could hear the punches and kicks making contact, he said. There were so many people.
When Champion made it halfway, Hollis could see his friend fall, and he could see the mob grab him by the legs and drag him back to where he had started. Minutes ticked by as Champion fought, scrambling slowly down the 45 feet of aisle. At one point, the mob pushed him into a seat and he couldn’t break out. Someone hung from the overhead luggage rack and appeared to be stomping him.
Hollis said two or three other drum majors were trying to help, but they weren’t doing much good against the mob. After more than five minutes of fighting shadows, Robert Champion’s fingertips touched the back wall. He sat on the ground, exhausted, chest heaving. He asked for water and someone handed him Gatorade. The bus began to empty. The drum majors left, but Champion did not follow. Hollis vomited in the parking lot. Jonathan Boyce climbed back on the bus to help Champion. A few others were still there. Champion had begun to panic, Boyce said. He was freaking out, saying he couldn’t breathe and couldn’t see even though his eyes were wide open. And then he passed out.”
The details give further understanding into why the school has suspended the marching band until next year, and criminal charges have been brought against those involved. Since the incident didn’t take place on campus, FAMU is looking to side-step blame for the tragedy.
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