TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Pledges of a Florida A&M marching band club known as the Clones were punched or paddled while they played music during a hazing initiation, according to police records released Friday. Four band members were arrested in the beatings and charged with hazing.
It’s the latest fallout from a scandal that has rocked the university and its famed Marching 100 band. FAMU’s band director had told university police about hazing among the Clones, a group within the band’s clarinet section, a police report said.
The hazing took place in “three or four initiation meetings” that began around Sept. 1 in a house about a mile from campus. Five pledges were lined up in order of their height and “forced to exercise, play music, and were either punched, prepped (slapped with both hands on back) and/or paddled,” police said.
One of the pledges took photos of her bruises and quit after the first meeting. The police report doesn’t say whether she reported the alleged hazing to FAMU officials.
During the initiations, pledges were forced to give money and were pressured to keep exercising “even after exhaustion.”
The four students arrested were: Denise Bailey, 22; Brandon Benson, 23; Hakeem Birch, 21 and Anthony Mingo, 22.
They were booked on a misdemeanor hazing charge and released on bail earlier this week. All denied that hazing occurred or said they didn’t know about it, according to the police report. None had attorneys as of Friday afternoon.
In November, FAMU drum major Robert Champion died hours after the Florida Classic football game in Orlando in what authorities said was a hazing ritual. His death has been ruled a homicide, but no charges have been brought.
The 26-year-old drum major suffered blunt trauma blows to his body while he was aboard a bus and died from shock caused by severe bleeding.
FAMU president James Ammons originally fired band director Julian White after Ammons said he failed to report hazing he knew about. White, who is now on administrative leave, denies that he didn’t do enough.
White previously provided copies of letters to The Associated Press that he sent to Birch and Mingo in November, saying he was suspending them until a hazing investigation by university police was finished.
Three people were charged after alleged hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, when Bria Shante Hunter’s legs were beaten with fists and a metal ruler to initiate her into the “Red Dawg Order,” a band clique for students who hail from Georgia.
The Board of Governors – which oversees the state’s 11 public universities – launched its own investigation in November into whether FAMU officials had ignored past warnings about hazing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also is investigating the Marching 100’s finances.