Death of FAMU drum major ruled a homicide

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.,None - The death of a Florida A&M University drum major has been ruled a homicide after an autopsy showed he died of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma.

Officials in Orlando said Friday that Robert Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back. Officials believe he died following a hazing ritual.  

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The 26-year-old student's Nov. 19 death revealed a culture of hazing within FAMU's famed band, the "Marching 100." It led to the suspension of longtime band director Julian White.

Four students suspected of involvement in hazing were briefly expelled after his death but later reinstated.

On Friday night, FAMU President James Ammons met with Governor Rick Scott.  The Governor had requested the FAMU Board of Trustees suspend Ammons during the hazing investigation.

Ammons would not say what he and Governor Scott discussed in their meeting.  He did say he would respect the decision of the Board of Trustees. 

Kofi Hemmingway, a former FAMU marching band member, said he was a hazing victim while at the school.   Hemmingway claimed he was punched, slapped and beaten during hazing events.

"You have a blindfold on so you don't see what's going on around you," said Hemmingway.  "None of that needed to happen. But I made the dumb mistake to go through with it."

Five additional FAMU band members who claimed they were hazed have contacted the lawyer representing Robert Champion's family.

A criminal investigation is being led 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.

A joint statement from FAMU board Chair Dr. Solomon L. Badger, III and FAMU president James H. Ammons read, "This information is extremely upsetting for all of us, even though it confirmed what we suspected.  We again convey our deepest condolences to the Champion family.  We will continue to cooperate with all agencies looking into the matter and are committed to creating a safe environment for the entire FAMU community and ensuring that this never happens again at FAMU."

Deputies said they are working with the State Attorney's Office to determine the appropriate charges for the suspects in Champion's death.