Oklahoma nonbinary student's death after in-school fight 'not a result of trauma,' police say

The student was identified as nonbinary by their parents.

February 22, 2024, 8:33 PM

Investigators in Owasso, Oklahoma, are investigating the death of a nonbinary student one day after a physical altercation with other students.

On Wednesday, Owasso Police shared an update on the ongoing investigation and noted that a complete autopsy was performed on the student by the medical examiner. Police said the autopsy did not indicate that the student died as a result of trauma.

"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 statement on Facebook.

Owasso police noted, "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 released at a later date, police added.

The student's mother, Sue Benedict, told the news outlet that Nex and another student had gotten in a fight with three older girls in the bathroom. It is not yet clear if their gender identities had a role in the altercation.

The altercation occurred after Nex had experienced several months of bullying from other students, according to Sue Benedict in The Independent.

In a statement on the school's website, school officials said: "Students were in the restroom for less than two minutes and the physical altercation was broken up by other students who were present in the restroom at the time, along with a staff member who was supervising outside of the restroom."

"While it was determined that ambulance service was not required, the school nurse recommended that Nex Benedict visit a medical facility for further examination," according to police.

Police said an Owasso High School student died on Feb. 8, a day after a physical altercation between the student and others at the school took place. Police have not publicly identified the victim as Nex.

According to police, the teen and their family reported the altercation at a local hospital, where the student was taken following the incident. A school resource officer responded to the hospital to take the report.

According to police, the student was rushed back to a hospital the next day, where the student was pronounced dead.

Officials say they are investigating the incident and will be interviewing school staff and students "over the course of the next two weeks." The findings will then be submitted to the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office for prosecution review.

The State Medical Examiner's Office will determine the final cause and manner of death.

There were initially conflicting reports regarding the student's name and gender identity. The student has been identified by their mother to be 16-year-old Nex Benedict in an interview with The Independent.

In a post on GoFundMe, their mother Sue Benedict said: "We are sorry for not using their name correctly and as parents we were still learning the correct forms. Please do not judge us as Nex was judged, please do not bully us for our ignorance on the subject. Nex gave us that respect and we are sorry in our grief that we overlooked them."

In this image provided Malia Pila, Nex Benedict poses outside the family's home in Owasso, Okla., in December 2023.
Sue Benedict via AP

Nex's mother told the Independent that the bullying Nex had faced came amid state legislative policies that targeted the transgender and nonbinary communities.

In recent years, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed bills that required students to use bathrooms that match their sex assigned at birth citing safety, banned the use of nonbinary gender markers on IDs, restricted gender-affirming care and banned transgender girls from participating in girls' sports citing fairness.

Local LGBTQ organizations are calling for accountability against those who have promoted anti-transgender rhetoric, which some speculate may have contributed to the attack on Nex and the other student.

"The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth," said groups Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Oklahoma in a joint statement.

"We are deeply troubled by reports the school failed to respond appropriately to the altercation that preceded Nex's death and demand a thorough, open investigation into the matter," the statement read.

ABC News has reached out to the Owasso school district for comment.

In a statement to ABC News Thursday, released by their lawyers, Nex Benedict's family said they were asking officials to "hold those responsible to account."

"While various investigations are still pending, the facts currently known by the family, some of which have been released to the public, are troubling at best. We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly and expediently," the family's statement read. "Notwithstanding, the family is independently interviewing witnesses and collecting all available evidence. 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."

They also thanked the public for the support they've received. They've asked for privacy in the months ahead.

PHOTO: Oklahoma State flag
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

"While we continue to piece together the full story, we wanted to reach out to our community grappling with this horrific harm, and the grief we all share as we reflect on the growing anti-2SLGBTQ+ sentiments our youngest community members are facing more often," said advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma.

Anti-LGBTQ violence has been on the rise in recent years, according to law enforcement researchers, coinciding with growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment from conservative politicians.

Activists say they hope Nex is remembered for more than their tragic death.

"Nex loved rock music, and often bonded with others over headbanging," said Freedom Oklahoma in a statement. "Nex was unfailingly kind, and always searched for the best in people."

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