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Was a Florida A&M Student Robert Champion Jr's Hazing Death an Anti-Gay Hate Crime?

An investigation into the hazing death of Robert Champion, Jr., a Florida A&M marching band member last November, has taken a new turn after the student's parents reveal that the 26-year-old student was gay, CBS News reports:

2_championOn Nov. 19, Champion was found unresponsive aboard a band bus after the school's biggest game of the year. Police ruled the death a homicide from hazing. About 30 students were on the bus at the time, but no one has been charged, and the Champions have started their own investigation into how their son died.

"The truth will come out as to what happened," says the young man's mother. "I will find out how my son got there, because I know that he would not have willingly, knowingly just walked into that."

Champion family attorney Chris Chestnut says he has now spoken to "a lot" of the people who were there on the day, more than 10 potential witnesses. Some of the students tell Chestnut they were also hazed that night, but none as severely as Champion. They say he was singled out, possibly because he was both a vocal opponent of hazing and a band disciplinarian, and gay.

"It may or may not have been" his sexual orientation which saw him singled out, says Chestnut, allowing only that it is a "possibility."

Champion's mother says her son "wasn't defined by his sexual orientation. He was just defined as being a child going to school, trying to get an education."

Champion's parents are planning to sue Florida A&M as well as the bus company involved.

CNN reports that the Champion family is planning to hold a news conference this morning, and also reports on the alleged hazing ritual:

Some band members have said Champion died after taking part in a rite of passage called "crossing Bus C." One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that students "walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus backward while the bus is full of other band members, and you get beaten until you get to the back." The medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide and said Champion "collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body." An autopsy conducted after his death found "extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back," as well as "evidence of crushing of areas of subcutaneous fat," which is the fatty tissue directly under a person's skin.

Watch the CBS News report on Champion's death, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Comments

  1. Can we not call this a "Hazing Death", but a brutal beating? This young man was BEATEN TO DEATH. May he rest in peace.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jan 10, 2012 9:08:25 AM


  2. in answer to the title

    Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if anti-gay played a huge part in it

    R.I.P.

    Posted by: say what | Jan 10, 2012 9:34:55 AM


  3. I agree with STREPSI. The word hazing doesn't do justice to the horrible physical assaults experienced in these situations. The word hazing gives a legitimacy to the actions that they do not have. The people who did this murdered Champion.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 10, 2012 2:17:41 PM


  4. There was a segment on '20/20' or '60 minutes' a while ago specifically on this - marching band hazing rituals, but it focused more on historically black universities. It was really brutal; from watching that I actually believe it when they say his sexuality had nothing to do with it.

    Posted by: Hugh | Jan 10, 2012 5:15:21 PM


  5. @HUGH All the more reason to at least consider that this "hazing" was more brutal for Mr. Champion because he was gay.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jan 11, 2012 1:22:52 AM


  6. When this "hazing" death was first reported, i wondered about the over the top excessive violence and brutality inflicted on this young man. Homophobia may indeed explain it. I hope authorities are able to bring the criminals who murdered this young man to justice.

    Posted by: jack | Jan 11, 2012 8:23:32 AM


  7. What makes no sense about this is that they "hazed" the drum major, the top of the pecking order in his organization!, you would haze him no more that you would the quarterback, the star pitcher or the leading scorer of a basketball team. Something else was at play here. From a fraternity guys point of view, his hazing makes no sense to me, there was another reason. And to be clear........I see no reason at all for any type of hazing against anyone for any reason.

    Posted by: jimcord | Jan 12, 2012 10:55:46 AM


  8. It's unfortunate that even after interviewing so many people who were present that night, there are still no definitive answers around this poor man's death and his parents are left to speculate. One can only hope that someone's conscious will come in to play and someone will tell the truth so his parents can have some peace.

    Posted by: Gay Girls Rock | Jan 13, 2012 5:37:46 AM


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