13 charged with felonies in hazing death of FAMU band member


The Florida state attorney announced charges will be sought against 13 people in the death of FAMU band member Robert Champion.

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Florida state attorney announced on Wednesday that 13 people will be charged with felony hazing in the death of a Florida A&M University band member.

Robert Champion, 26, was in Orlando with the FAMU marching band for the annual Florida Classic game against Bethune Cookman University in November.

State Attorney Lawson Lamar said Champion was beaten to death by his fellow band members while on a charter bus. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

"The testimony obtained to date does not support a charge of murder, in that it does not contain the elements of murder," Lamar said. "We can prove participation in hazing and a death. We do not have a blow or a shot or a knife thrust that killed Mr. Champion. It is an aggregation of things which exactly fit the Florida statute as written by the Legislature."

Lamar urged anyone with more information to come forward. He said he anticipates there could be more arrests.

The names of those charged will not be released until all 13 have been arrested. Authorities in Florida said one of the suspects is being sought by the GBI.

Champion attended Southwest DeKalb High School.

Champion's parents have sued the bus company owner, claiming in a lawsuit that the bus driver stood guard outside the bus while the hazing took place. The bus company owner initially said the bus driver was helping other band members with their equipment when the hazing took place.

Witnesses in the Champion case have told his parents he might have been targeted because he opposed the hazing, the parents' attorney has said. It has also been suggested to them that Champion was targeted because he was gay and a candidate for chief drum major.

Since Champion’s death, several FAMU students have been charged with hazing in unrelated incidents.