The parents of Florida A & M band member Robert Champion, who died in a hazing incident last November, said they will sue the company that owns the bus where the incident occurred.
At a recent press conference, Champion’s parents Robert and Pamela, and their attorney Christopher Chestnut, said the bus company’s negligence contributed to his death because band members were allowed back on the bus to conduct the hazing after a football game.
Ray Land, the owner of Fabulous Coach Lines, said his staff did everything possible to notify authorities when they were notified there was a problem on the bus, according to the Associated Press.
Champion, a member of the school’s “Marching 100” band was found unresponsive on the bus after a Nov. 19 football game in Orlando. Officials from the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office later ruled the death a homicide as the result of hazing. In the medical report, officials concluded that “the death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old male, is the result of hemorrhagic shock due to a soft tissue hemorrhage, incurred by blunt force trauma.”
According to reports, witnesses have told Champion’s parents the drum major may have been targeted for severe hazing because of his opposition to the marching band’s culture of hazing.
Other witnesses have told Champion’s parents that the fact he was a candidate for chief drum major, as well as homosexual, may have played roles in his being targeted for hazing, according to the Associated Press. However, Champion’s parents don’t believe their son’s sexual orientation was a factor.
Several days after Champion’s death, FAMU Band Director Julian White was fired. In a press release, FAMU President James Ammons said White was dismissed for “alleged misconduct and incompetence involving confirmed reports and allegations of hazing.”
Champion was a former Southwest DeKalb High School student. Recently another “Marching 100” band member who is also a Southwest DeKalb graduate, Bria Shante Hunter, alleged that several weeks before Champion’s death band members beat her so badly she suffered a cracked thighbone and had to be taken to the hospital.
Both Hunter and Champion were members of a group within the band called the ‘Red Dawg Order,’ made up of strictly members from Atlanta. Her injuries were from an alleged hazing incident inducting her into the group.
Several arrests were made in the incident involving Hunter and according to Orange County detectives and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents, the investigation into Champion’s death is ongoing.
The Champions are unable to file a lawsuit against FAMU for another several months because of state law setting up procedures for suing public entities, according to the Associated Press.
Suing the bus company will allow the Champions’ attorneys to depose witnesses and gather documents.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.