On November 19, 2011, F.A.M.U. drum major Robert Champion walked onto Bus C and endured the ultimate beat down, after which he would have “crossed over,” and become a fully initiated member of the Marching 100. The first step is called the “hot seat.” Band member Evan Calhoun reportedly described the “hot seat” saying, ”You’re bent over and they just like play cadences on your back,” though others said the beatings could vary in intensity on different occasions. That night Champion endured the “hot seat,” in which he was pummeled with fists and bass drum mallets. According to CNN, it was typical for recruits to endure the “hot seat” on three separate occasions, before being allowed to proceed to the next and final step called “the gauntlet.” Champion went from the directly from the “hot seat” to “the gauntlet,” in which he walked from the front to the back of the bus, and was hit repeatedly, again with fists and mallets, also drumsticks, and open hands. There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about what you can and can’t do to a person in the “gauntlet,” unless the upperclassmen announce a restriction. As a drum major, basically a band “cop,” Champion’s ordeal was intentionally more brutal. The worst part of the beating was administered by the upperclassmen who organized the hazing, and occurred where they stood at the back of the bus.
That night Champion and two others were hazed. The first, Lissette Sanchez, was described as basically “unconscious” by the time she reached the back of the bus, Champion’s roommate Keon Hollis, who had taken a shot of alcohol before the ritual, finished “the gauntlet,” feeling winded, then exited the bus and wretched, to the delight of his band mates, who applauded his “crossing over,” the purported reason one endures the hazing: to be a respected member of the band. Champion went last, and according to witnesses, in addition to the usual pummeling, Champion was jumped on, kicked, and held in a bear hug for more sustained blows. Band mate Jonathan Boyce told police that he used his body to shield Champion from the final blows, and then sat on the floor of the bus with him after the ordeal was over. Most of the other band members had gone back to the hotel, when according to Boyce, Champion started panicking saying he couldn’t see and was having trouble breathing. He passed out, but Boyce felt a pulse, and went for help. When they returned, there was no longer a pulse. Having “crossed over,” Champion had was dead despite efforts at resuscitation.
In all 13 members of the Marching 100 have been arrested in connection with Champion’s death. Two have been charged with misdemeanors, and 11 with felony hazing. The defendants are set to be arraigned on June 14.