Band hazing: 4 more charged at Florida A&M; none linked to death
The arrests are the latest in a string of hazing incidents rocking the university, prompting the formation of a task force to investigate claims that the famed Marching 100 has a rampant culture of hazing. The outcry has also led some to suggest that the university’s president be suspended.
In November, Robert Champion, a rising drum major, died after being attacked on a bus after a football game in Orlando. His death was ruled a homicide, but no charges have been filed.
In the charges announced Friday, university police arrested Hakeem Birch, 21, Brandon Benson, 23, Anthony Mingo, 22, and Denise Bailey, 22. They were charged with hazing in connection with a September incident in Tallahassee, according to a police report.
The band members forced four other students in the clarinet section, known as the Clones, to stand in a line according to height and endure beatings while continuing to play and exercise, the police report said.
Three other band members were arrested in October and accused of beating a female band member who suffered a broken thigh bone.
None of the arrests is related to Champion’s death, authorities said..
In a statement, university spokeswoman Sharon Saunders said the university is encouraging any possible hazing victims to notify police.
"We are committed to ending hazing at FAMU," she wrote. "We are taking decisive action to ensure the safety of all students and create a permanent culture change."
The Orlando Sentinel has reported that, in the years leading up to Champion’s death, parents had begged university officials to do more to prevent hazing. Among the officials was President James Ammons, whom Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called on to temporarily step aside while hazing claims are investigated.
He kept his job but was publicly reprimanded by the school’s board of trustees. Band director Julian White has been placed on temporary leave, however, while state and university police investigate.
-- Ricardo Lopez
Photo: Tommy Mitchell, president of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Assn., speaks at a news conference with other university supporters last month to show support for univeristy President James Ammons. The school's trustees publicly reprimanded Ammons after Gov. Rick Scott's requested that he be suspended while authorities investigate the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. Credit: Bill Cotterell/Associated Press via Tallahassee Democrat