News (USA)

Police say nonbinary teen’s death was not “a result of trauma”

Nex Benedict is a white, non-binary, 16-year-old who died after a bathroom fight in Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma
Nex Benedict Photo: GoFundMe

Police in Oklahoma say that Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teen who died earlier this month after allegedly being physically assaulted by fellow students at their high school, “did not die as a result of trauma.”

On Wednesday, the Owasso Police Department (OPD) released preliminary findings in their ongoing investigation into Benedict’s death via Facebook.

“While the investigation continues into the altercation,” OPD wrote, “preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office is that a complete autopsy was performed and indicated that the decedent did not die as a result of trauma. At this time, any further comments on the cause of death are currently pending until toxicology results and other ancillary testing results are received. The official autopsy report will be available at a later date.”

According to the OPD’s account, a physical altercation occurred in a restroom at Owasso High School West on February 7. Previously, OPD said that the altercation lasted “less than two minutes” and was broken up by students and a school staff member. The information the department provided is largely identical to information provided by Owasso Public Schools in an earlier statement.

According to The Independent, Sue Benedict, who has been identified as Nex’s mother, grandmother, and legal guardian in various media reports, said that 16-year-old Nex and another trans student had been in a fight with three older girls. Sue Benedict said that Nex had been knocked to the ground and hit their head, and that she arrived at the school to find Nex with bruises on their face and scratches on the back of their head.

In a text message exchange shared with CNN affiliate KOKI, Nex wrote shortly after the incident that they had been “jumped” by three girls who “had been bullying me and my friends.” Nex wrote, “I got tired of it so I poured some water on them and all 3 came after me.”

CNN notes that Nex did not specify the nature of the bullying in the text exchange. But according to The Independent Sue Benedict indicated that Nex had been bullied for their gender identity.  

“All students involved in the altercation walked under their own power to the assistant principal’s office and nurse’s office,” police said on Wednesday. “Each of the students involved in the altercation was given a health assessment by a registered nurse at the school and it was determined that ambulance service was not required.”

Sue Benedict, however, told The Independent she was furious that the school did not call an ambulance or the police following the incident. A woman identified as the mother of the trans student in the bathroom with Nex at the time of the altercation told KJRH-TV that Nex had been unable to walk to the school nurse’s station on their own. It’s unclear whether the woman was present at the school immediately following the incident, and KJRH-TV appears to have removed her quotes from their reporting.

Police said the school nurse recommended that Benedict visit a medical facility for further examination. Later that day, an Owasso School Resource Officer interviewed Benedict and their parent at Bailey Medical Center where Benedict was being examined and followed up on the morning of February 8.

Later that afternoon, police said, “Owasso Fire Department medics were dispatched to a medical emergency involving Nex Benedict, who was transported to the St. Francis Pediatric Emergency Room where they later died.”

According to CNN, the Benedict family described the OPD’s initial findings as “troubling at best.”

“We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly, and expediently,” the family said in a statement Wednesday. “The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy.”

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Oklahoma also called for “a thorough, open investigation” into Nex’s death.

“The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth,” the statement read.

“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in an X post Wednesday. “Our hearts are with Nex Benedict’s family, their friends, and their entire school community in the wake of this horrific tragedy.”

In a statement, Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC Transgender Justice Initiative, noted that Chaya Raichik, who has been responsible for spreading anti-LGBTQ+ hate and misinformation via her influential social media account LibsofTikTok, was recently appointed to Oklahoma’s library advisory board. Hate speech from extremists like Raichik, Cooper said, “is having a direct, negative impact on the lives of trans and gender-expansive folks, including young students like Nex.”

On Wednesday, Raichik responded to the OPD’s findings in a sneering X post. “Trans activists are LOSING THEIR MINDS because police determined the Oklahoma teen didn’t die as a result of trauma from the school fight,” she wrote. “Shouldn’t they be relieved that kids aren’t being beaten to de*th at school like they previously thought? I’m starting to think this all just political for them…”

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