Parents speak out in FAMU hazing investigation
(CBS) ORLANDO, Fla. - The parents of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion Jr. have spoken out, adding a new twist to the hazing investigation of their son's death. They revealed he was gay, something previously unknown about him, reports CBS This Morning.
CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann met the parents, Robert and Pam Champion in Orlando, where they visited for the first time the hotel parking lot where their son died after a supposed hazing ritual.
Champion, 26, was allegedly beaten by his band mates after one of the school's biggest games of the year. He was found unresponsive aboard a band bus.
"There's no way around it," Pam Champion said. "It was wrong."
Police ruled the death a homicide from hazing.
There were around 30 students on the bus at the time of Champion's death, but no one has been charged. The parents of the drum major have begun their own investigation into how their son died.
"The truth will come out as to what happened," says the young man's mother. "I will find out how my son got there, because I know that he would not have willingly, knowingly just walked into that."
Chris Chestnut, the Champion family attorney, says he has spoken to "a lot" of the people who were there on that day, more than 10 possible witnesses.
Some of the students tell Chestnut they were hazed that night as well, but none as bad as Champion. They say he was targeted, possibly because he was a band disciplinarian, opponent of hazing, and gay.
The band had many subgroups in hazing culture. Champion was hazed on Bus C, which was a bus with its own culture, and his parents believe, own hazing ritual. Chestnut says his interviews have suggested band members on Bus C may have been subjected to hazing violence as they were made to run from the back of the bus to the front and left to "pray to God they make it off."
Chestnut is hesitant to say if it was definitely his sexual orientation that singled him out, allowing only that it is a "possibility."
Pam Champion says her son "wasn't definite by his sexual orientation. He was just defined as being a child going to school, trying to get an education."
The Champions have made it clear that they are suing Florida A&M next week, as well as the band's charter bus company.
"We are sorry the young man died," the president of Fabulous Coach Lines told CBS News in a written statement. "Ultimately we did not have anything to do with the student dying. Our responsibility lies with transport."
But Champion's parents say putting an end to the hazing is the responsibility of everyone involved, and they're not done fighting for that yet.
"I'm waiting on a solution," says Pam Champion. "Our goal is not to shut down any school. Our goal is not to stop the music. Our goal is to stop the hazing."
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