ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.,None - Florida A&M University had a "culture of
hazing" that led to the recent death of a marching band member, an
attorney for the student's family said Monday.
Attorney Christopher Chestnut said the family plans to file a
lawsuit in the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, who was found
Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after the
school's football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman.
- News Conference: Parents suing over FAMU band death
Police said Champion, a clarinet player who recently was named
drum major, had been vomiting and complained he couldn't breathe
shortly before he collapsed. Police said hazing played a role in
his death but have not released any more details. Chestnut also
refused to talk about any specifics.
"We are confident from what we've learned that hazing was a
part of his death. We've got to expose this culture and eradicate
it," Chestnut said. "There's a pattern and practice of covering
up this culture."
Meanwhile, the band director who was fired from the school last
week said he was unfairly dismissed and will fight to get his job
back. Longtime band director Julian White said he had suspended
band members this semester for hazing-related incidents before
White said he feared the hazing linked to Champion's death could
mean the end of the school's famed Marching 100 band, which has
performed at Super Bowls and other high-profile events.
Champion's parents said their son never told them about any
troubles with the band.
"He loved the band, and every band he's been in. He loved
performing in the band. I called him 'Mr. Band'," said Champion's mother, Pam Champion.
"My thing is to make sure this does not happen to anyone else, let
people know this is real."
His mother said he decided he would be a drum major when he first saw the famed Florida A&M "Marching 100" at age five.
Since Champion's death, the school has shuttered the Marching
100 band and the rest of the music department's performances.
"No one wants to hear on a phone call that your son collapsed and died," Pam Champion said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said state investigators would join the
probe and the college announced an independent review led by a
former state attorney general.
No charges have been filed, but any death involving hazing is a
third-degree felony in Florida.
Under Florida law, any monetary award Champion's family wins in
a lawsuit in excess of $200,000 against a government institution
like FAMU can only be paid if approved by the Legislature and
The Associated Press contributed to this report.