Florida prosecutors are now charging 12 former Florida A&M University (FAMU) band members with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.
The district attorneys in the case had originally sought to bring charges of felony hazing in the death of the 26-year-old against 10 band members in May 2012, but prosecutors said Monday they are raising the charges to manslaughter. They also have charged two additional defendants with the crime.
Champion died in Orlando in November 2011 after he collapsed following what prosecutors have called a savage beating during a hazing ritual. It happened on a bus parked in a hotel parking lot after FAMU played Bethune-Cookman in their annual rivalry football game.
Authorities say Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back and died of internal bleeding.
Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that the drum major was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.
Champion’s family began the organization Drum Major for Change, in December 2011, shortly after his death.
“Robert D. Champion was a true leader and an advocate against hazing and violence of any kind,” says a statement on the organization’s website. “Tragically he lost his life on November 19, 2011 at the hands of his fellow band members and band alumni to an allegedly hazing incident. It was because of this barbaric act against another human being in the divine name of hazing, that the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation mission is to eradicate hazing and it deeply rooted culture of secrecy that has infected the campus of our schools and universities. It is time to take a stand and say, ‘NO MORE’.”
According to the website, more than 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year and more than 55 percent of college students involved in organizations, sports teams and clubs are subjected to acts of hazing during their college years.
To learn more about Robert Champion or the Drum Major for Change Foundation visit – http://www.drummajorforchange.com/HOME/