Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wills: Champion said “I just want to do it.”

The parents of deceased FAMU band member Robert Champion, Jr. continue to stand by their claims that their son was beaten against his will. But another one of Champion’s fellow drum majors is coming forward with details that back up the findings of the homicide investigation, which states that Champion wanted to be hazed.

Rikki Wills, an ex-drum major who is one of the felony defendants in the Champion hazing case, told HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that Champion personally told him that he wanted to go through the “Crossing Bus C” ritual.

According to Wills, Champion said: “I want to get it over with. I just want to do it.”

Wills and two other former drum majors told investigators that they assisted Champion as he attempted to “Cross Bus C.” The hazing ritual required him to run through a gauntlet of blows aboard a parked bus and touch the back of the vehicle.

“I'm Robert's roommate so I decided I was going to help him get through. So I pushed him through,” Wills told investigators.

A CBS Sports report states that Wills “is the first band member to speak publicly about the incident, according to HBO.” But ESPN previously published an article that featured an interview with former drum major Keon Hollis back in March. Hollis, who also went through the “Crossing Bus C” ritual on Nov. 19, 2011, said he and Champion both requested to be hazed.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office found the evidence that Champion went through the hazing process voluntarily to be credible.

“The hazing episode which ultimately resulted in the death of Robert Champion originally involved three victims (Keon Hollis, Lissette Sanchez, and Robert Champion),” Detective David Phelan wrote in arrest warrant affidavits for defendants in the case. “Investigation revealed the aforementioned victims willingly participated in one or two of the phases of the hazing process.”

The Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel interview with Wills will air on HBO Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

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