By George Mathis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Hazing is suspected in the Saturday death of a Florida A&M Marching 100 drum major from Atlanta, police said Tuesday via Channel 2 Action News Robert Champion, 26, a graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School, was a drum major with the Marching 100, Robert Champion, 26, a graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School, died after being found on a band bus parked in front of a hotel Saturday night in Orlando. He was vomiting and said he couldn't breathe before he collapsed, said investigators.
Orange County, Fla., Sheriff Jerry Demings said a preliminary autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests would be needed to know what caused Champion's death.
But Demings said that investigators had traveled to Tallahassee and had concluded that "hazing was involved in the events that occurred prior to the 911 call for assistance."
In Florida any death that occurs in connection with hazing is a third-degree felony.
"In the next few days or weeks, it will become clearer as to whether any criminal charges will be forthcoming," Demings said in a statement.
University officials acknowledged Tuesday that 30 students this semester were kicked off the band because of hazing and that there are three active investigations.
Earlier Tuesday, Florida A&M University President James Ammons suspended all practices and performances of the school's famed band. Ammons said the school will form an independent task force to look into the incident and cooperate fully with Orange County investigators.
Ammons said it would be wrong to allow the band to keep performing until more is known about what happened to Champion.
"I think we need to stop and give ourselves the opportunity to find out the facts," Ammons said. "And until we do I just don't think it's appropriate to have the band performing and representing the university."
Florida A&M was in Orlando to play Bethune Cookman University at the Citrus Bowl.
Bethune-Cookman University President Trudie Kibbe and band director Donovan Wells apologized to Champion's family for a comment made during the halftime show Saturday at the 32nd annual Florida Classic.
BCU band announcer Horatio Walker concluded the Wildcats' show by telling FAMU's Marching 100 band to "do what you do best, ‘Roll over, crawl away and die.'"
A service for Champion was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Lee Hall Auditorium at the university.
Family of Wrongful Death Victims often have trouble getting the settlement they deserve. An Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney can help. The Law Offices of Shane Smith would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the Champion family for their tragic loss.
By George Mathis
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