Orlando, Fl (Orlando Sentinel/WAOK)-Ever since the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion in November, questions have been raised about why he was targeted by fellow band members for the fatal beating. Champion’s parents have now come forward with their attorney to express their thoughts on that subject.
According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, Attorney Christopher Chestnut, speaking at a news conference with Champion’s parents in Orlando, said the parents came forward to discuss their son’s sexuality because rumors had been swirling that the 26-year-old student was hazed specifically because he was gay. Though Champion’s sexual orientation may have been a factor, Chestnut said, his own investigation indicates that it was probably one of several that caused students to beat him so violently that he died.
He insisted, however, that the overriding motivation that likely led to such a brutal attack was Champion’s outspoken resistance to hazing within FAMU’s famed marching band.
“Our investigation is very clear: This was hazing, not a hate crime,” Chestnut said during the news conference at the Rosen Plaza hotel, where Champion was found unresponsive on a charter bus Nov. 19 after being hazed.
Neither the Orange County Sheriff’s Office nor the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would discuss details of their investigations into Champion’s death, including whether they are considering the hazing a hate crime.
On Tuesday, Champion’s parents, Robert and Pam Champion of Decatur, Georgia, described how their son had urged fellow band members not to give in to the practice — a long-standing problem at the historically black university in Tallahassee.
The parents and Chestnut think his beatings were meant as retaliation. Champion, they said, followed the university’s rules that prohibit hazing. He also exemplified how a student could be successful in the band — he was slated to be the head drum major next school year — without submitting to the abuse and humiliation some students endure to become part of such a prestigious group.
Champion’s parents have already said they plan to sue Florida A and M in their son’s death but now say they will also sue the bus company where the attack happened.
So far no one has been arrested and charged with Robert Champion’s death. The FAMU Marching 100 remains suspended from any band related activity.
More in this report from the Orlando Sentinel