TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — The longtime director of Florida A&M University’s famed marching band was fired Wednesday as the fallout from a drum major’s suspected hazing death deepened.
The move to fire Julian White came one day after the school shuttered the program and the rest of the music department’s performances as police investigate how band member Robert Champion, 26, died.
White had been the band’s director since 1998.
Champion was found unresponsive on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel on Saturday night after the school’s football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman. Champion, of Atlanta, was vomiting and had complained he couldn’t breathe before he collapsed. Investigators believe hazing occurred before 911 was called.
Champion’s cause of death wasn’t known, and a spokeswoman with the medical examiner’s office said it could take up to three months to learn exactly what killed him.
Governor Rick Scott said state investigators would join the probe and the college announced an independent review led by a former state attorney general.
Gov. Scott said he believed Champion’s death warranted help from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Scott said he wanted investigators “to assure that the circumstances leading to Mr. Champion’s death become fully known, and that if there are individuals directly or indirectly responsible for this death, they are appropriately brought to justice and held accountable.”
Ammons, the school president, also announced the formation of an independent task force to investigate Champion’s death. It will be chaired by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and former Tallahassee Police Chief Walt McNeil.
White, who graduated from the school with a music education degree, didn’t comment at the news conference and a telephone message left at his home Wednesday was not immediately returned. He has 10 days to respond to his termination.
White became a faculty member at the school in 1972, according to the university’s website, and his bands consistently received superior ratings in marching and concert. The Marching 100 band has performed at several Super Bowls and represented the U.S. in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
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