(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The parents of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, who police believe died after a violent hazing, said Tuesday that their son may have been hazed more severely than other students because of his opposition to the practice.
“Robert Champion was the poster child of anti-hazing. He threatened the very institution of hazing in this band,” said attorney Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion’s family.
During the family’s investigation into what happened to their son they discovered that Champion was gay, but also concluded that was not a reason for his alleged hazing.
“This is not a hate crime,” Chestnut said during a news conference Tuesday. “This is a hazing crime. That is what we are here to say today.”
“We don’t have all the answers and all the details,” Pam Champion said Tuesday. “My son, he loved his music. He loved the band. His demeanor was more like following all the rules, doing what you should do as a band member. He was a perfectionist. … He expected everybody to do the same.”
Robert Champion, 26, was a member of the college’s “Marching 100” band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. Authorities said they believed that hazing was involved.
Sources told ABC News on Tuesday that Chestnut had been interviewing witnesses for a legal case when he discovered that Champion was gay. Champion’s parents were vaguely aware of his sexuality, but did not know that there were rumors of a connection to his death.
“Robert did have an alternative lifestyle,” Chestnut said Tuesday. He said witnesses said that was not a primary factor in the hazing, however. “It’s difficult to know the true motives of every person.”
The school fired band director Julian White and suspended all performance and engagements of any bands and ensembles. White was later reinstated and put on administrative leave. Four band members also were dismissed from FAMU, but then reinstated.
During the news conference on Tuesday, Champion’s parents said they planned to sue Fabulous Coach Lines, the company that owns the bus on which the hazing allegedly took place, claiming negligence and wrongful death.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jennifer Graham, Deseret News