Hazing News

Eyewitness on bus describes death of Robert Champion on Bus C

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Excerpt: rst student to speak publicly among those charged with crimes in the hazing scandal at Florida A&M University has told HBO’s Real Sports he tried to protect the drum major who died.

Rikki Wills, who is among 11 students charged with felonies after the death of Robert Champion in November, told Real Sports contributor Frank Deford he and other drum majors tried to shield Champion from blows by other members of FAMU’s Marching 100 band delivered in an initiation called “Crossing Bus C.”

The story aired Tuesday evening on HBO.

The ritual involved walking from the front to the back of a parked bus, while dodging blows from other band members delivered by sticks, belts and fists.

“Robert started panicking. … He was like, ‘I can’t breathe, can’t breathe,’ ” said Wills about Champion’s reaction after the beating. “He said he couldn’t see. … He started saying, ‘Oh Lord, Jesus, please help me. Please help me.’ Those were probably the last words he said.”

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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