Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old recent graduate of the University of Arizona, was at a bar on the Greek island of Zakynthos when a fight broke out with another group of people on Friday around 3 a.m. local time, according to police there. At least eight people have been arrested in connection with his killing, according to local police.
The fight escalated into a brawl and Henderson was battered to death in the street, police said.
His friend Travis Jenkins said this is uncharacteristic of Henderson.
"Bakari was not one to act aggressively like that," Jenkins told ABC News. "He was always the one who was the peacemaker."
The coroner told ABC News that Henderson suffered severe head injuries in the incident. All the strikes were to the head, and it appears and there were no defensive wounds on Henderson's body, the coroner added.
Henderson's body will be flown to Athens and then to the U.S. within two days. A toxicology report will be released in several weeks.
Pavlos Kolokotsas, the mayor of Zakynthos, told ABC News that both groups involved had been drinking extensively.
The investigation into the incident and Henderson’s death is ongoing. An autopsy has been carried out on Henderson, and results are expected early this week.
Police told ABC News that a British citizen of Serbian origin, who is temporarily employed in Greece as a bouncer, and a Greek national, who works at the bar in Zakynthos, were arrested Friday and named suspects in the beating death. Six Serbian tourists were also arrested after being identified on surveillance footage as having taken part in the brawl, police said.
The eight arrested so far appeared in court on Saturday night and pleaded not guilty, according to police.
A lawyer for one of the eight suspects said that his client has no criminal record. He said he caused some bodily harm, but didn’t have homicidal intent, and didn’t hit Henderson in the head. He said his client is "devastated, literally devastated."
"He did not hit (the victim) on the head, and death was caused by traumatic head injury," he said. "I am convinced that it will be proven that he was not the one who caused the death of the unfortunate American."
Friends and family face a painful loss
Sam Hindsman, another friend of Henderson, also told ABC News that the incident was difficult to process, given what he knew of Henderson's personality.
"Such a fun loving person and he's so easy going," Hindsman told ABC News of Henderson. "So many people just loved him, so it was hard to believe."
Friends set up a GoFundMe page in order to bring Henderson's body home and pay for his funeral. The page, which was started on Saturday, had already raised close to $20,000 by Sunday morning.
A description of Henderson on the page says that he "was just starting his life," and had "so many dreams and aspirations."
Henderson's family told ABC affiliate KVUE in Austin that a memorial service is being planned.
The statement mentioned that Henderson was in Greece working on a photoshoot to launch his new clothing line when he died.
"Bakari loved spending time with family and friends, traveling, and meeting new people," the family said in their statement. "He was a big thinker and enjoyed coming up with new business ventures. Bakari was an inspiration to all he met."
The University of Arizona issued a statement Friday on the news of Henderson's "untimely death."
"All of us at the University of Arizona are shocked and saddened by the loss of our recent graduate, Bakari Henderson," the university's president, Robert Robbins, said in the statement. "Our hearts and prayers are with his friends and family. I can only imagine the deep sense of loss they must be feeling at his untimely death. It is always a tragedy when a young life ends before it has really yet to begin."
An official within the U.S. State Department told ABC News that Zakynthos police had notified the U.S. embassy of the death of an American citizen there early Friday.
"We are in communication with authorities and providing consular assistance to the deceased citizen’s family," the official said in a statement Saturday. "We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends, and out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment."
ABC News' Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.