FAMU Ends Suspension of Famed Band
PHOTO:  FAMU Hazing Victim Robert Champion

Florida A&M University announced today that it is lifting the suspension of its famed marching band about a year and a half after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

The university announced the decision at a news conference this morning, according to ABC's Tallahassee affiliate WTXL.

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19, 2011 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game.

The death was ruled a homicide and Champion's torso was covered with bruises that were inflicted during a brutal hazing ritual that contributed to his death, according to investigators.

The band, known for performing at events including the Super Bowl and presidential inaugurations, was suspended shortly after Champion's death. The incident also contributed to the resignation of the university's president and retirement of the band director.

Last month, the university hired Sylvester Young as the new band leader.

Interim President Larry Robinson said at the news conference that the university has taken several steps to investigate and prevent hazing, according to the Associated Press.

"It has helped us to respond more swiftly and decisively to any allegations of hazing and any university group, emphasizing our board's policy of zero tolerance towards hazing," Robinson said.

Young said the band has begun rehearsing and hopes to be back performing by the beginning of the football season in September, the AP reported.

"We've been working toward that for the past month," Young said. "We'll see. We're moving in the right direction."

About 13 FAMU band members were charged in relation to Champion's death. At least two have already been sentenced. Brian Jones, 24, got two years of probation and 200 hours of community service in October 2012.

Rikki Wills, 25, was sentenced to house arrest and probation earlier this month after pleading no contest. Wills was one of the five drum majors who led Champion's funeral march, escorting his casket during the funeral.

Over 2,000 pages of evidence from the investigation into Champion's death were released by the Florida District Attorney's Office in May 2012, which delivered a blow-by-blow of the events from the night of Champion's death.

Champion endured a lethal pummeling down the aisle of a pitch-black bus that rocked from the force of the violence inside, according to the documents.

Champion struggled, with a female band member holding him back to prolong the punishment, through a gauntlet of band mates who used their fists, feet, straps and sticks to pound him into unconsciousness.

The attorney for Champion's parents did not immediately respond to request for comment today.

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