TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The death of a Florida A&M University drum major has been ruled a homicide after an autopsy showed he died of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma.
Officials in Orlando said Friday that Robert Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back. Officials believe he died following a hazing ritual.
The 26-year-old student's Nov. 19 death revealed a culture of hazing within FAMU's famed band, the "Marching 100." It led to the suspension of longtime band director Julian White.
The family's attorney said Champion's family will persue civil action against everyone involved.
"A life is priceless, but we're seeking justice," said Christopher Chestnut.
Chestnut said the Champions are devastated after losing their son following a FAMU band performance in Orlando.
The medical examiner just ruled his death a homicide, and the autopsy report shows Champion died of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma. He had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back, according to that report.
The medical examiner said Champion collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body.
"To know that he died a violent death, they are distraught. I see it in their eyes. I hear it in their voice. It's disheartening," he said.
Chestnut said Champion's parents have started their own investigation into his death, and won't rest until they feel they've gotten justice for their son.
"We are going after anyone and everyone that was in any way involved in Robert's death. Everyone will be held accountable," he said.
FAMU initially expelled four students and fired the band director in the wake of Champion's death. The students and the band director have now been readmitted to the school until the investigation is complete.
"This is a cultural issue that we are Americans need to address and the civil court system is a means of doing that," he said.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are heading up the criminal investigation into the matter.
Any death involving hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida, but so far no charges have been filed.
First Coast News