Next Monday, November 19, will mark one year since Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion was beaten to death while being hazed by members of the university's famed marching band, the Marching 100. Yesterday, Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times published a very thorough account of the incident that led to Champion's death, and some of the details show just how calculated and vicious the band's hazing process was.
Before the crossing comes the hot seat, and many people described the practice to police. On the bus, in transit, one of the Bus C leaders walks to the front and taps you on the shoulder. You step backward down the aisle, sit in the rear of the bus and put your head between your legs.
"They put a blanket over my head and I was, like, in crash position. And then they start beating me," Requesta Harden, a 21-year-old percussionist who was beaten that day on the way to the game, told to detectives from the Orange County Sheriff's Office. "Then I couldn't, couldn't breathe, so I got up. And then I ran to the front."
Champion had not had a hot seat before, so Martin told some others to take care of him. They did, punching him, kicking him, and hitting him with sticks as he covered his head and tried not to move.
As they beat Champion, the first crossing began. Lissette Sanchez, 19, had bad kidneys and asked if they could avoid hitting her there. When she made it to the back of the bus, she was struggling to breathe and blacked out, she told detectives.
Hollis was next. Martin told him to remove his shirt and raise his arms. Hollis held the luggage racks while Martin and April Tarpley "prepped" him by slapping his bare chest and back repeatedly, he said. When they finished, Hollis ran toward the back. He was punched and kicked and smacked with a drum strap and beaten with drum mallets. He fell and a swarm of bodies collapsed on top of him. Someone hit him with a yellow CAUTION WET FLOOR cone. "Roof him," he heard someone say, instructions to lift him to the roof and drop him on the floor.
Robert Champion stripped off his white T-shirt, adrenaline surging, and ran into the dark tangle of fists and feet and drumsticks. Hollis couldn't see what was happening to Champion from his seat in the back. But he could hear the punches and kicks making contact, he said. There were so many people.
When Champion made it halfway, Hollis could see his friend fall, and he could see the mob grab him by the legs and drag him back to where he had started. Minutes ticked by as Champion fought, scrambling slowly down the 45 feet of aisle. At one point, the mob pushed him into a seat and he couldn't break out. Someone hung from the overhead luggage rack and appeared to be stomping him.
Please read the whole thing.
Recounting the deadly hazing that destroyed FAMU band's reputation [Tampa Bay Times]