FAMU band members describe hazing ritual

(CBS News) - The statements of Florida A&M band members who are accused of beating a drum major to death in a hazing ritual were heard on Wednesday. What happened during that ritual? Investigators made some of their interviews public.

At least 18 band members present during Robert Champion's hazing ritual last November gave recorded sworn statements to investigators. Three of them, including Keon Hollis, told them Champion was willingly hazed.

"Yeah we was talking about it," Hollis says in a recording. "He didn't want to do it, but he was just like, I'm gonna do it. I told him, 'If you don't wanna do it, don't do it.'"

Band members described what happened next: a violent, chaotic hazing ritual called "Crossing Bus C."

A band bus was parked behind an Orlando hotel after a football game last November. Champion had to push his way from the front of the bus to the back. Roughly 20 people punched and kicked him, and hit him with drum mallets. Halfway down the aisle, he got what was called the "hot seat." Band members sat him down, covered him with a blanket, and continued beating him.

Drum major Jonathan Boyce claimed he tried to protect Champion, but Boyce was later charged with felony hazing.

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Boyce: "He was maybe, like, a foot or two away from the back of the bus. So I climbed over seats. I see people kicking him. And I put my body around his body. He was panicking and he was saying he was having trouble breathing and whatnot and, like, he couldn't see, but his eyes were, like, wide open.

Some band members carried Champion to the front as others called 911.

Dispatcher: "Is he awake?"

Caller: "His eyes are open but he's not responding."

Champion died at the hospital from internal bleeding and blunt force trauma. Shawn Johnson testified that some fellow band members tried to cover up their role in Champion's death.

"It kind of amazes me how people in the band, they're are mad at people telling on things that are happening in the band," Johnson told investigators, "and they're not mad about his death."

Pam and Robert Champion, Sr.,, Champion's parents, on Wednesday claimed band members are still involved in a cover-up.

"I can't say what the charges should be because I'm by no means a lawyer. But clearly my son was murdered," said Pam Champion.

Eleven band members face arraignment next month on felony hazing charges. They could face up to six years in prison.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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