Robert and Pam Champion of Decatur, along with their attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said at a Jan. 10 news conference that Fabulous Coach Lines held some responsibility in the death of their son, a Southwest DeKalb alumnus who died Nov. 19. He was beaten on a bus after a football game in Orlando.
Orlando officials ruled 26-year-old Champion’s death a homicide after an autopsy showed he died of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma.
Officials said on Dec. 16 that Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back.
Chestnut said that the bus company’s negligence contributed to Champion’s death. He said band members were allowed to get back on the bus without supervision after they had returned to an Orlando hotel following a football game.
“How did students get on the bus, how was the bus turned on, the air conditioner turned on, before a bus employee knew Robert Champion was beaten to death,” Chestnut asked.
Chestnut said that witnesses said Champion may have been targeted for severe hazing because of his opposition to the culture of hazing. Chestnut and Champion’s parents downplayed claims of witnesses that Champion may have been targeted because he was gay.
“This was hazing, not a hate crime,” Chestnut said.
The attorney said the Champions plan to file a lawsuit against FAMU. He also said suing the bus company will allow the attorneys to depose witnesses and gather documents.
Ray Land, the owner of Fabulous Coach Lines, told the Associated Press that his staff did everything possible to get help once they were notified there was a problem.
Land said in December that the bus driver was helping students unload their instruments when Champion collapsed.
On Jan. 3, trustees at FAMU decided to establish an on-campus memorial and a scholarship in honor of Champion. FAMU is still working out details related to the memorial and scholarship.