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Sheriff: Hazing Suspected in FAMU Drum Major's Death

5:21 PM, Nov 23, 2011   |    comments
Robert Champion
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ATLANTA -- Florida A&M University President Dr. James Ammons announced Tuesday that the university has suspended band performances indefinitely following the death of drum major Robert Champion.

Meanwhile, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said he suspects hazing is involved in Champion's death. In Florida, hazing is a third degree felony. Sheriff Demings said charges could be forthcoming.

In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Ammons also announced the school would form an independent task force to investigate the Atlanta native's death, along with any "unauthorized activities" associated with the school's band, The Marching 100.

The school's "band, staff, students and history" will all be subject to investigation, Dr. Ammons said. This is the first time the band has faced suspension.

Since Champion's death Saturday, blogs and social media sites have been flooded with posts speculating that Champion's death may be connected with hazing.

Dr. Ammons addressed those claims, asking people to stop engaging in rumors, but also acknowledging that several band members have been released from the band this semester because of possible participation in hazing.

"Hazing is illegal and it's something that should not happen," he said. "I am committed to making certain that we end this practice" at the university.

Champion, 26, died suddenly following the Florida Classic Saturday. The Atlanta native had just returned to the FAMU marching band's hotel in Orlando when he became sick and complained of being unable to breathe.

Friends of the victim called 911. He was transported to Doctor Phillips Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities do not suspect foul-play.

Champion was a 2004 graduate of Southwest Dekalb High School.

11Alive News contacted a relative who said the family is in a state of shock and unable to speak about the death. He went on to say they know very little at this time.

In a statement released by FAMU, Band Director Julian White said, Champion "was a very fine drum major who was of excellent character...I had not told him yet, but he was slated to be the head drum major next year."

The university is providing grief counseling for band members and students.

An autopsy was performed Monday. The results were inconclusive.

WXIA

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