A Florida A&M University drum major who died after enduring a school hazing ritual aboard a bus decided to go through with the rite in order to earn respect, band members said in court documents released Wednesday.
"It's like a respect thing," said defendant Jonathan Boyce, who noted that Robert Champion "was wanting to do it all season."
Champion, 26, died last year because of "hemorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage, due to blunt force trauma," the Orange County medical examiner said.
More than 2,000 pages of police interviews with witnesses and defendants who were aboard the bus on the day of Champion's death paint a picture of a darkened bus where three band members, including Champion, were hazed.
Multiple witnesses say that Champion was forced to walk, shirtless, from the front of the bus to the back while being beaten with drum sticks, bass drum mallets, punches and kicks.
Champion is thought to have died after taking part in a rite of passage called "Crossing Bus C," in which students "walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus backward while the bus is full of other band members."
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"You get beaten until you get to the back," one band member said on the condition of anonymity.
But Champion's parents said Wednesday that their son had advocated against hazing.
"It doesn't sound like my son at all," Pam Champion told reporters at a news conference in Atlanta. "He was a stickler for the rules."
Boyce and other defendants are only trying to "save themselves," she said, by claiming that Champion wanted to participate in the ritual.
"It certainly wasn't (just) hazing," she added, describing the incident as a "brutal assault."
As for the future of FAMU's Marching 100, Pam Champion said, "Until you clean house, you can't ... consider putting that band back on the field."
After the incident, Boyce said he asked Champion if he was alright.
Initially, he said "yeah I'm OK," according to Boyce. But later, he said Champion began panicking.
"He was having trouble breathing," noted Boyce, who carried the drum major shortly before he lost consciousness. "He couldn't see, but his eyes were like wide open."
Boyce's attorney could not be immediately reached for comment and CNN cannot independently verify his account.
Band member Harold Finley, who has been charged in connection with Champion's death, and Evan Calhoun, then a second-year percussion student who has not been charged, noted that the hazing ritual wasn't obligatory.
"If you want to be there, you're there; if you're not, you're not," Calhoun said in the deposition. "Nobody forces you."
Band member Kerian Cox, who was a percussion section leader, told investigators that the more intense hazing can come when a student is identified for senior-level positions.
"I guess they know I was going to be like a (band) leader in the future," Cox said, recalling his own earlier experience with the ritual.
But he noted that the band's trombone section had been "cut in half" due to suspensions for alleged hazing prior to the November incident.
On the day that Champion died, drum major Keon Hollis told investigators, he had endured the same ritual.
"I did it for the same reasons everybody else do it," he said. "Get the respect."
Hollis -- who went before Champion -- said they had to fight their way through a fury of punches and slaps, while other band members swung with sticks and straps.