Statements by band members indicate that Champion was subjected what is called “hot seat” hazing, involving suffocation before he “crossed over” — and was pummeled as he made his way from the front to the back of the bus.
According to witness statements, Champion made it to the back of the bus, having completed the “crossing Bus C” hazing ritual before he fell unconscious. A witness told investigators that Champion and the two other students hazed with him were hit with “straps, hands, sticks and a big orange traffic cone.”
Drum major Rikki Wills offered this description: “Well, you have to run from the front of the bus to the back of the bus and, when you do that, they, uh, hit you, kick you….”
Wills also claimed he helped Champion make it through the ritual. “I’m Robert’s roommate so I decided I was going to help him get through so I pushed him through…and when we got to the end, Robert said, ‘Oh my God, uh, I’m having trouble breathing….” And then he passed out.
They told Cearnel that Champion couldn’t breathe. Champion was unresponsive, so the group called 911.
The medical examiner concluded Champion died of hemorrhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma.