There are new developments at Florida A&M University, the historically Black college that has been rocked by several violent hazing incidents. The most high-profile case is the November death of drum major Robert Champion who was gay.
Champion's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner and driver of the charter bus where the hazing ritual took place. The lawsuit alleges that Fabulous Coach Lines and its bus driver consented and willingly participated in illegal hazing acts over many years, according to the AP. The lawsuit reveals graphic details of violence.
The suit describes the two types of hazing that took place before Champion died. During the first, pledges of a band clique known as "Bus C" run from the front to the back of the bus while other band members slap, kick and hit them, the lawsuit said. A pledge who falls can be stomped and dragged to the front of the bus to run again.
In another ritual known as "the hot seat," a pillow case was placed over the pledge's nose and mouth while the pledge was forced to answer questions. If a pledge got a right answer, the pillow case was removed briefly; a pledge with a wrong answer was given another question without a chance to take a breath, the lawsuit said. ...
The lawsuit said bus company managers knew that FAMU band members held hazing rituals regularly on buses after football games but did nothing to stop them, and they often times told bus drivers to ignore the hazing.
More details on the bus company and driver from CNN:
According to court documents, Bus C, which is was the vehicle where the incident took place and the name of a specific hazing ritual, was parked in a dark corner, separate from the other buses provided by the company.
The suit also alleges that the bus and its air conditioning system were running at the time Champion was beaten and that the bus driver was standing guard at the door to prevent anyone from entering or exiting the vehicle. When Champion stepped off the bus at one point to vomit, the bus driver told him "he would be alright as she forced him back onto the bus," the lawsuit claims.
The 26-year-old drum major died during a band trip to Orlando on November 19. Champion suffered blunt trauma blows and died from shock caused by severe bleeding, according to the autopsy. Detectives are investigating the death as a homicide.
Seven members of the university's fabled Marching 100 band were recently arrested on hazing-related charges. But there have been no arrests in connection with Champion's killing. "His parents, Robert Sr., and Pamela, trust the process but find the investigation's pace troubling, said their lawyer, Chris Chestnut," reports AP. "
There are dozens of witnesses and possible suspects to be interviewed in Champion's killing, and most of them live outside the Orlando area. Some may not be cooperating. ... Detectives were unable to interview all the witnesses who know what happened on the bus immediately after Champion died because his death wasn't ruled a homicide until a month after he collapsed. They have been trying to recreate the events by interviewing witnesses, often traveling to Tallahassee where FAMU is located.
Half a dozen detectives have interviewed or are in the process of interviewing 30 to 35 witnesses, said Ginette Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Champion's parents publicly revealed in January that their son was gay. In addition to being vocally opposed to hazing, Champion's sexuality could have been among the reasons why he was viciously beaten during the attack, according to the family's attorney.
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