Vigils held nationwide for nonbinary Oklahoma teenager who died day after school bathroom fight

Feb 25, 2024, 1:07 AM | Updated: Feb 26, 2024, 5:20 am

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) — Vigils took place across the nation for an Oklahoma teenager who died the day after a fight in a high school bathroom in which the nonbinary student said they were a target of bullying.

Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old who identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns, got into an altercation with three girls in an Owasso High School bathroom who were picking on Benedict and some friends. The girls attacked Benedict for pouring water on them, the teen told police in a video released Friday.

Benedict’s mother called emergency responders to the family home the day after the fight, saying Benedict’s breathing was shallow, their eyes were rolling back and their hands were curled, according to audio released by Owasso police.

While a two-week-old police warrant states that investigators were seeking evidence in a felony murder, the department has since said Benedict’s death was not a result of injuries suffered in the fight, based on the preliminary results of the autopsy.

Vigils for Benedict were held in Oklahoma and locations across the country, including Boston, Minneapolis, New York and Southern California in the days following the student’s death.

Dozens of people held candles and listened to passionate speeches at a gathering Sunday evening in El Paso, Texas.

“I’ve gone from heartbroken to angry,” said a community organizer named Lorena, who urged religious leaders to speak out against discrimination.

“My call to you is to stand up and make it clear that is what is being done should not be done in your god’s name,” Lorena said. “Stand up and take back your religion from the conservative right.”

In Huntington Beach, California, Kanan Durham, executive director of Pride at the Pier, said Friday that “this single moment cannot be the only way that we honor Nex.”

“This is a lot for all of us,” Durham said in a report by KABC-TV in Los Angeles. “This community has experienced grief like this so many times before.”

Many of the gatherings were organized by LGBTQ+ groups to protest against the frequent bullying suffered by nonbinary teens. Benedict’s family says Nex was bullied at school.

At a vigil Saturday in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the president of TahlEquality said Benedict’s death was traumatic and the rights group arranged for licensed therapists to be available at the event.

“It’s really hard being an LGBT community member in Oklahoma nowadays because suicide ideation and suicidal thoughts happen quite a bit,” Sanj Cooper told KOKI-TV, adding that the LGBT+ community was moved to speak out after Benedict’s passing.

“If anything we are impassioned, the fire in our belly has been lit up again to continue to fight,” Cooper said. “If anything it doesn’t oppress or keep us from our voice from being heard. If anything it makes it louder.”

More than two dozen people gathered Friday at All Saints Episcopal Church in McAlester, Oklahoma, for a vigil organized by the McAlester Rainbow Connection.

Matt Blancett, who organized the event for the LGBTQ+ group, said it was important to hold a vigil in McAlester because of the murder of Dustin Parker, a transgender man, in 2020.

“It shows people that we have a community, we are here, we’re not going anywhere,” Blancett said.

All Saints Priest Janie Koch said it is important for people to reach out for support.

“It is very very important as the gamut of emotions are cycling to watch out for each other, to be mindful of one another,” Koch said.

In audio of the call to police, Benedict’s mother, Sue Benedict, said she wanted authorities to file charges. The officer who responded can be heard in the hospital video explaining that the teen started the altercation by throwing the water and the court would view it as a mutual fight.

According to a police search warrant, Sue Benedict indicated to police on Feb. 7 that she didn’t want to file charges at that time. She instead asked police to speak to officials at Owasso High School about issues on campus among students.

The Feb. 9 search warrant, which was filed with the court on Feb. 21, also shows investigators took 137 photographs at the school, including inside the girl’s bathroom where the fight occurred. They also collected two swabs of stains from the bathroom and retrieved records and documents of the students involved in the altercation.

The police department said it does not plan to comment further on the teen’s cause of death until toxicology and other autopsy results are completed.

United States News

Associated Press

Ex-Philadelphia police officer pleads guilty in shooting death of 12-year-old boy

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A fired Philadelphia police officer pleaded guilty Friday to murder in the shooting of a fleeing 12-year-old boy, who prosecutors have said was on the ground and unarmed when the officer fired the fatal shot. Edsaul Mendoza also pleaded guilty to possession of an instrument of crime as part of a plea […]

4 minutes ago

Associated Press

Video of 2 bear cubs pulled from trees prompts North Carolina wildlife investigation but no charges

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A video of people pulling two bear cubs from a tree in North Carolina as one person posed for a photo with one of the wild animals prompted an investigation, but a state wildlife official said Friday that no charges will be filed. When North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission staff responded […]

21 minutes ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a Manhattan Criminal Court on April 19, 2024. A full jury was...

Associated Press

Full jury of 12, with 6 alternates, seated for Donald Trump’s criminal trial

A full jury was seated Friday in Donald Trump’s hush money case, the first criminal trial for a former president in U.S. history.

46 minutes ago

Associated Press

Attorneys argue that Florida law discriminates against Chinese nationals trying to buy homes

An attorney asked a federal appeals court on Friday to block a controversial Florida law signed last year that restricts Chinese citizens from buying real estate in much of the state, calling it discriminatory and a violation of the federal government’s supremacy in deciding foreign affairs. Attorney Ashley Gorski, representing four Chinese nationals who live […]

50 minutes ago

Associated Press

A convicted rapist is charged with murder in the killing of a Connecticut visiting nurse

A convicted rapist was charged with murder and attempted sexual assault Friday in the killing of a visiting nurse at a Connecticut halfway house for sex offenders in October — a crime that spurred calls for better safety measures for home health care workers. Authorities added the charges against Michael Reese, 39, as he appeared […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Catholic priest resigns from Michigan church following protests over his criticism of a gay author

BEAL CITY, Mich. (AP) — A Catholic priest has resigned as pastor of a church in a small central Michigan community, the result of weeks of controversy following his publicly expressed regret that a gay author had read a book to preschool children. Gay rights activists and others have held regular protests outside St. Joseph […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Vigils held nationwide for nonbinary Oklahoma teenager who died day after school bathroom fight