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Police Say Nonbinary Okla. Student 'Did Not Die as a Result of Trauma,' Family Says Teen Was Attacked by Group

Nex Benedict, 16, died on Feb. 8, one day after they were involved in an altercation in a school bathroom

<p>Go Fund Me</p> Nex Benedict

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Nex Benedict

Editor's Note: The following article has been updated to reflect the ongoing investigation into Nex Benedict's death.

The death of a nonbinary teenager from Owasso, Okla., following a physical altercation in a high school bathroom earlier this month was "not a result of trauma," police announced, citing information from the medical examiner.

Meanwhile, the family of Nex Benedict believes their death stemmed from bullying.

"While the investigation continues into the altercation, 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," Owasso police said in a Wednesday update. "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."

The 16-year-old sophomore has been identified on a GoFundMe campaign created by family as Nex Benedict, who uses they/them pronouns.

Police said in a statement initially shared on Tuesday that officers were called to a local hospital on Feb. 7 around 3:30 p.m. regarding a report of a student who had been involved in a physical altercation at Owasso High School earlier that day. The student, now confirmed to have been Nex, was pronounced dead at the hospital the next day.

Following the Wednesday update, Nex's family shared a statement through their lawyer to News on 6 in which they claim the teenager was attacked by a group of other students.

"On February 7th, 2024, the Benedict Family sent their child, Nex Benedict, to Owasso High School, trusting, like any parent or family member should be able to, that it was a safe environment for their loved one. Millions of parents across America make the same decision each and every morning. While at Owasso High School, Nex was attacked and assaulted in a bathroom by a group of other students," the statement reads, in part.

"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," the statement adds, in part, per the outlet.

The family urged officials involved in the case to conduct a fair investigation. The family is also investigating the case themselves.

"Notwithstanding, the family is independently interviewing witnesses and collecting all available evidence," the family said, per News on 6. "The Benedict Family calls on all school, local, state and national officials to join forces to determine why this happened, to hold those responsible to account and to ensure it never happens again."

"The family graciously accepts and appreciates the outpouring of support, thoughts and prayers from across the nation for the loss of their child. In the coming weeks and months they request that their privacy be respected and that they be allowed to grieve and deal with their new reality---a life without Nex," the family added.

Police previously said detectives were interviewing school staff and students regarding the incident and will turn over the investigation to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

In a statement shared on Tuesday, Owasso Public Schools gave background information on the incident following what they said has been an increase in “speculation and misinformation surrounding the case.”

School officials said that students were in the bathroom for “less than two minutes” before the altercation was broken up by other students who were in the restroom at the time, as well as a staff member who was supervising outside of the bathroom, according to the school's statement.

Once the altercation was broken up, all involved students walked to the assistant principal’s office and nurse’s office, school officials said. District administrators then took statements from the students present in the restroom and contacted their parents/guardians. According to school officials, each of the involved students were assessed by a nurse, and it was recommended to one parent that their student visit a medical facility for further examination.

“We understand that for many, additional questions remain, however these are the facts that we are able to communicate at this juncture,” school officials said. “We will continue to cooperate fully with the Owasso Police Department’s investigation.”

According to their obituary, Nex loved watching The Walking Dead, drawing, reading, and playing Ark and Minecraft. They also loved “nature and caring for cats, particularly [their] cat, Zeus.”

In a Tuesday update on the GoFundMe page, Nex's mother Sue Benedict apologized for having previously misgendered Nex in the fundraiser’s description.

“I lost my child, the headstone will have [the] correct name of their choice," the update reads. "The rest of [the] monies will go to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex Benedict’s name. God bless.”

Nex's death comes amid a climate of legislation, across the country and in Oklahoma, targeting transgender and nonbinary people. A bill was signed into state law last year requiring public school students to use bathrooms and changing rooms that matched their sex given at birth, particularly male or female, according to a statement from the Oklahoma Senate.

Local organizations Oklahomans for Equality and Trans Advocacy Coalition of Oklahoma shared the following statement on Facebook regarding Nex’s death.

“Our hearts are broken for the Oklahoma 2SLGBTQIA+ community and for the family, friends, and loved ones of Nex Benedict,” the statement read. “While we are still learning all of the facts surrounding the death of the 16-year-old Owasso student, we are certain that every student has the right to a safe learning environment, free from deadnaming, misgendering, outing, and violence, as well as appropriate medical care.”

“The persistent, vitriolic legislation and rhetoric being championed by our state leaders is breeding animosity, inciting violence, and harming the queer community, especially our youth. As we grieve and acknowledge this loss, we are reminded of the work yet to be done because our lives depend on it. Nex Benedict and the countless 2SLGBTQIA+ teens like them deserve better from our state and medical facilities. They deserve the chance to fully be themselves. They deserve to grow up. Rest in power, Nex,” the statement concluded.

A candlelight vigil is planned for Feb. 25 at 6:30 pm at Redbud Festival Park in Owasso to honor Nex, per Oklahomans for Equality.

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