Cause of death in FAMU case could take months


ORLANDO, Fla.,None - It could take up to three months to learn

exactly what caused the death of a Florida A&M University band

member who was suspected of being hazed, an official said


   Robert Champion, 26, was found unresponsive on a bus parked

outside an Orlando hotel on Saturday night after the school's

football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman. Investigators believe

hazing occurred before 911 was called. Champion was vomiting and

had complained he couldn't breathe before he collapsed.

   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 for which they play. In 2008, two first-year

French horn players in Southern University's marching band were

beaten so they had to be hospitalized. A year later, 20 members of

Jackson State University's band were suspended after being accused

of hazing.

   One of the worst cases involved a former band member at Florida

A&M University who suffered kidney damage because of a beating with

a paddle.

   In the current case, no charges have been filed, but any death

involving hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida.

   The exact cause and manner of Champion's death are pending the

autopsy results, said Sheri Blanton, a forensic coordinator for the

medical examiner. There is no timetable for getting the results

back, but most cases take 10 to 12 weeks, she said.

   FAMU officials acknowledged that 30 students have been kicked

off the band this semester due to hazing incidents. There are

currently three investigations.

   On Tuesday, officials at the Tallahassee school suspended the

famed Marching 100 band and any other ensemble that performs under

the supervision of the FAMU music department. The move affects more

than 400 students.

   The Marching 100 -- whose rich history includes performing at

several Super Bowls and representing the U.S. in Paris at the 200th

anniversary of the French Revolution -- was scheduled to perform at

the fall commencement on Dec. 16.

    (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)