Robert Champion’s Death Ruled Homicide

A medical examiner’s report found that Florida A&M drum major, Robert Champion Jr.’s death was caused by blunt force trauma, moments after a hazing incident Nov. 19 and has been ruled a homicide.

Hazing was suspected to be a factor in the 26-year-old’s death. Only after the release of the medical report were these assumptions confirmed. Toxicology levels and other health screening revealed the man was healthy, and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The report stated that “extensive contusions” were discovered on the chest, arms, shoulder and back of Champion along with severe internal bleeding within the tissues and “immediately after the hazing incident, he complained of thirst and fatigue; minutes later, he noted loss of vision and soon after had a witnessed arrest,” which is consistent with rapid loss of blood and shock.

Reuters reports that according to the Champion family’s attorney, Christopher Chestnut, the family is “distraught” upon discovering the cause of their son’s death. The Champion’s have filed suit against the university siting negligence on the part of administrators and band officials regarding the culture of hazing that is prominent at FAMU.

James H. Ammons and Solomon Badger, FAMU president and Chair of the FAMU Board of Trustees, released a statement Friday evening that said, “this information is extremely upsetting for all of us, even though it confirmed what we suspected.”

“FAMU is trying to reach the Champion family, but have been unsuccessful at this time,” said Sharon Saunders, FAMU chief communications office.

This follows Governor Rick Scott’s recommendation Thursday to the Board that Ammons be suspended immediately until the outcome of the investigation was complete, and then Friday, repealing that recommendation after hundreds of students and FAMU supporters gathered on his lawn late Thursday night in protest of his actions against Ammons.

The decision to suspend him is still contingent on Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting, where the matter will be discussed.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has been responsible for the investigation into the death of Champion since the beginning of December, after Scott recommended the case be investigated by FDLE.

The FDLE has also launched a separate investigation into the possibility of fraud within the band.

The OCSO released a statement that said a number of individuals on hand during incident have been interviewed and they would be working with the State Attorney’s Office to determine the proper course of action in bringing criminal charges against those responsible. No other information is available at this time.

Check back for updates as the story develops.