• Man charged in connection with FAMU hazing death turns self in; 2 others arrested


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A man charged in connection with the hazing death of Florida A&M University marching band member Robert Champion has turned himself in to law enforcement, WFTV learned Thursday. Two others have also been arrested.

    Bryan Jones, 23, turned himself in at the Orient Road Jail on Wednesday around 10:40 p.m., the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told WFTV on Thursday.

    Jones, who is one of the 13 people charged in connection with Champion's death, had an active warrant for his arrest out of Orange County.  He is charged with a felony. Jones was booked into jail and bonded out on a $15,000 bail.

    Two others charged in the hazing death have been arrested. Both 23-year-old Caleb Jackson and 24-year-old Rikki Wills were arrested and booked into the Leon County jail on Wednesday afternoon.

    Jackson made his first appearance in court Thursday morning. He was arrested in 2009 on charges of aggravated battery, causing great bodily harm, and had another arrest in 2010.

    Jackson was on felony probation, so the judge ordered that he remain without bail, despite pleas from his fiancé, Jasmine Alexander.

    "He's been walking a straight and narrow path. That's our only source of income right now is him working, and without him being able to work our bills aren't being paid," said Alexander.

    In all, 13 people are facing charges and 11 of them face felony charges.  If convicted, they could face up to nearly six years in prison. The other two people will face a misdemeanor charge.

    The charges were announced on Wednesday, nearly six months after 26-year-old Champion died after being violently hazed aboard a chartered bus following the annual Florida Classic football game between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman.

    WFTV learned Jackson has a criminal record. State and local records show that Jackson was serving probation for a felony battery charge. His probation was scheduled to end October 2013.

    Leon County jail records show that Jackson has been previously arrested in 2009 by Tallahassee Community College police for battery and resisting without violence. He was arrested again by Tallahassee police in 2010.

    Other arrests are expected but authorities have not yet announced the names of the suspects.

    Champion was severely beaten by band members in November and had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back, authorities said.

    The case has exposed a harsh tradition among marching bands at some colleges around the U.S.

    Champion's parents are also speaking out about the charges.

    The family says they are not happy with the charges and they think the charges are not severe enough.

    Not only do they believe the charges are not severe enough, they think even more people should be facing charges in the death.

    After the charges were announced on Wednesday, Champion's mother spoke on national television.

    "Of course my first reaction was I was very, very disappointed. My husband and I, we expected something more harsh," said Pam Champion.

    Champion's parents wanted murder charges against some involved in the death.

    "I've all along thought hazing is not fitting, especially what happened to my son. Hazing is not the term at all," said Pam Champion.

    State Attorney Lawson Lamar vigorously defended the charges, pointing out that no single person dealt a blow meant to kill.

    "This allows us to move forward only to prove two things: Participation in hazing and a death," said Lamar.

    WFTV's legal analyst believes the state attorney found that no single person inflicted a fatal blow.

    "It would've been difficult for the state attorney to charge a more serious crime than what they've chosen. In this case, we don't have a single act by an individual leading to the death of this young man," said Bill Sheaffer.

    FAMU issued a statement after the charges were filed. The president and the university board chairman said: "We are vigorously working to eradicate hazing from FAMU, and doing everything within our power to ensure an incident like this never happens again."

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