TALLAHASSEE (AP) - A Florida A&M University drum major whose death revealed a culture of hazing within the school's famed marching band died from shock caused by internal bleeding after suffering blunt force trauma, officials said Friday.
Robert Champion, 26, had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and suffered bleeding from soft tissues, causing him to go into shock, the medical examiner's office in Orlando said. The autopsy said Champion was vomiting before becoming unresponsive Nov. 19 aboard a band bus outside an Orlando hotel after the school's football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman.
The drum major's death led to the suspension of longtime band director Julian White and the end of band performances for the near future. Four students suspected of involvement in hazing were briefly expelled from the school. They were reinstated after state police asked the school to stop any disciplinary action until a criminal investigation is finished.
Champion's death also triggered a criminal investigation by the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Any death involving hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida, but so far no charges have been filed.
Another band member suffered a broken thigh bone in early November after she says she was beaten during a hazing ritual. Three former band members have been arrested in that case.
Separately, a group of black Tallahassee ministers have formed a task force charged with battling hazing at all historically black colleges and universities. Student leaders at FAMU have launched an initiative to encourage every student on campus to sign an anti-hazing agreement; clubs and organizations that don't sign risk being sanctioned by student government.
Hazing cases in marching bands have cropped up over the years, particularly at historically black colleges, where a spot in the marching band is coveted and the bands are revered almost as much as the sports teams. In 2008, two first-year French horn players in Southern University's marching band were beaten so badly they had to be hospitalized. A year later, 20 members of Jackson State University's band were suspended after being accused of hazing.
In 2001, FAMU band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle. Three years earlier, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, Fla., said he was paddled around 300 times, sending him to the hospital and leaving him physically and emotionally scarred.
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