The Florida A&M University marching band has been put on suspension following the mysterious death of drum major Robert Champion over the weekend. Champion, 26, was found dead on the band's bus shortly after the band's performance this Saturday during the halftime show of the Florida Classic football game against Bethune Cookman in Orlando. While the investigation is not complete, it's believed that the death may be linked to hazing.
The FAMU Marching 100 is considered one of the greatest marching bands in the world, and has played at inaugural events for both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and has also been featured at several Super Bowl festivities. The band is perhaps best known for their dancing half-time shows.
The results from Champion's autopsy are not yet complete, and initial tests were inconclusive, but investigators believe the death may have been connected to hazing. Witnesses claim that earlier in the day Champion started vomiting and complained of not being able to breath.
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"Any death that occurs as the result of hazing is a third-degree felony," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told CNN. "Anyone who participates in such events can be criminally charged."
As a result, FAMU president James Ammons has cancelled "any and all performances and engagements for bands and other ensembles under the auspices of the Music Department, including the Marching 100." The suspension will remain in effect indefinitely. Ammons will assemble a task force to "determine if there are patterns of inappropriate behavior within the culture of the band."
Champion was one of six drum majors in the band, and the band's director says the he was likely to be named head drum major next year.