Robert Champion, the FAMU band member whose sudden death last month caused a national uproar, was killed exactly the way many believed and had feared he had: his death was caused by the trauma resulting from a severe hazing beating he received from fellow band members, the state medical examiner’s office has ruled.
In what is likely to produce involuntary manslaughter charges against band members, coupled with lawsuits against Florida A&M University and others, the medical examiner’s office in Orlando, Fla., concluded that Champion’s death was a homicide.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Friday, Dec.1 6 saying it planned to work with the state attorney’s office “to identify the charges that are applicable” in the death of the 26-year-old Atlanta native. The examiner said Champion had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and internal bleeding that caused him to go into shock, and ultimately killed him.
The death has had national repercussions that have reverberated past the Tallahassee, Fla. — home of FAMU, Florida State and the Florida statehouse — and rippled all the way to the White House.
Larry Robinson, who recently stepped down as assistant secretary of commerce in the Obama administration, acknowledged Champion in a commencement speech. He said there were “dark clouds in our midst,” but he predicted the university would overcome the tragedy.
“The world is watching. Let them see, let them hear the real FAMU. Let them know we have been here 124 years and we plan to be here another and yet another,” he said.
News of the autopsy came soon after Gov. Rick Scott met privately with FAMU president, James Ammons, to discuss whether the university leader should step down. Ammons was reprimanded by the school’s Board of Trustees, but the governor has said he thinks Ammons should be suspended until multiple investigations are complete.
Friday evening, Ammons and Florida A&M board chairman Solomon L. Badger III issued a statement addressing the medical examiner office’s findings.
“This information is extremely upsetting for all of us, even though it confirmed what we suspected,” the joint statement said. “We again convey our deepest condolences to the Champion family. We will continue to cooperate with all agencies looking into the matter and are committed to creating a safe environment for the entire FAMU community and ensuring that this never happens again at FAMU.”