7 FAMU Hazing Suspects Surrender

Despite more arrests in drum major's death, many want a harsher university response.


Seven of the 13 Florida A&M University band members charged yesterday for the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion turned themselves in to authorities Thursday.

The suspects include Bryan Jones, 23, of Parrish, Fla., who was arrested on felony hazing charges in Hillsborough County and released after posting $15,000 bond, according to a WKMG News report. Jesse Baskin 20, and Benjamin McNamee, 21, were also arrested and taken to the Miami-Dade County jail. In addition, Shawn Turner, 26, was arrested in Gadsen County, and Harold Finley, 20, was arrested in Hillsborough County. All have been charged with one count of felony hazing. Baskin, McNamee and Turner posted $15,000 bond, reports said.

Of the two people arrested Wednesday, Caleb Jackson, 23, charged with hazing resulting in death, remains incarcerated in the Leon County jail, according to reports. Another band member, Rikki Wills, 24, was arrested but made bail, according to reports. Bond for both had been sent at $15,000.

In the case that has put a spotlight on college hazing rituals, Champion, an Atlanta native, died in November after being beaten on a bus following the Marching 100 band performance at the Florida Classic football game in Orlando, Fla.

Now, nearly six months after that incident, 11 suspects face a hazing-resulting-in-death charge, which is a third-degree felony. The other two face hazing charges, a first-degree misdemeanor, according to documents released Wednesday by the Florida state attorney’s office. The charge for hazing resulting in death carries a sentence of up to six years in prison for those found guilty who do not have previous records, State Attorney Lawson Lamar said during a press conference Wednesday in Orlando.

That reality may hold sobering significance for Jackson, who has had previous brushes with the law, with at least six charges from events in 2009 and 2010 in Tallahassee. He was charged by the Tallahassee Community College police with aggravated battery with the threat to do violence and with trespassing on school property following an incident in September 2009. FAMU police charged him with disorderly conduct following a January 2010 incident. And Tallahassee police charged him with domestic violence following an incident in September 2010.

Officials at FAMU would not say how they would handle the students who have been charged in the hazing death that has focused a national spotlight on the college, often recognized for its business, journalism and engineering programs. “Upon administrative and legal review of any and all official law-enforcement documents publicly released or shared, Florida A&M University will initiate proceedings against those involved as appropriate and to the fullest extent lawfully possible,” wrote Avery McKnight, vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, in an email to The Root.