Arrests Continue in Champion Hazing Case
May 03, 2012 | WMFE - Three people are now in custody charged in the hazing-related death of a Florida A&M University band drum major. 26-year-old Robert Champion died after being beaten in a hazing ritual aboard the band's chartered bus in Orlando in November. Almost six months after Champion died, charges have been filed against 13 people in connection with his death. The charges range from misdemeanors to felonies. Shortly after the charges were announced Wednesday, law enforcement officers around the state began making arrests. Two band members, 23-year-old Caleb Jackson and 24-year-old Rikki Wills were arrested in Tallahassee Wednesday. A third band member, Bryan Jones, turned himself in Wednesday night in Hillsborough County. He was released after posting a $15,000 bond. Wills, also a drum major with the Marching 100 band, was allowed to post bail but a Leon County judge has refused to release Jackson on bail because he is currently on probation for battery.
It’s a ritual that State Attorney Lawson Lamar condemns. “I have come to believe that hazing is a term for bullying. It’s bullying with a tradition. A tradition that we can’t bear in America.”
FAMU’s Marching 100 band is one of the best known college marching bands in the country. To those familiar with the band, like alumna Crystal Finlay, the news is painful, but not surprising.
“Regardless of watching it or hearing about it, every time the subject comes up it strikes a nerve because it’s a tragedy, it could have been avoided.” Finley said. “Unfortunately, here is where we are now, and we just have to move forward.”
“More often than not what I have learned is that the transgressors may be suspended for a time and then they’re allowed back in. So I think zero-tolerance is really going to have to become zero-tolerance.” Hobbs said.
But a resolution to the case could still be months, even years away. State Attorney Lawson Lamar says he expects the case will be difficult to try.
Florida A&M University officials aren’t talking to the media, but have released a statement saying they will “move with all deliberate speed to initiate proceedings against those involved as appropriate and to the fullest extent lawfully possible.”
The Champion case spurred a closer look into the culture of a band that’s known nationally and internationally, but the organization, and people close to it, say this isn’t the kind of attention the Marching 100 usually gets. Band alumni like Jevon Evans, says watching the case, and other hazing-incidents within the organization unfold in the media has been hard.
“To spread joy and music and love in the stands of Bragg Stadium, the Georgia Dome and the Citrus Bowl, and then to not have that anymore, it hurts. Of course it hurts.”
Still, Evans says he’s grateful to see that the legal process is working, and that charges against those that contributed to Champion’s death have been filed.
Law enforcement officials say they aren’t releasing any names of those charged until they have been taken in to custody.