What Owasso police, school and Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner have said about Nex Benedict’s death

Nex Benedict deadname Dagny non binary student killed beaten classmates Owasso High School funeral procession motorcycles hearse
Nex Benedict deadname Dagny non binary student killed beaten classmates Owasso High School funeral procession motorcycles hearse
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In Oklahoma, the community around Owasso is grappling with the tragic death of tenth grader Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old student of Indigenous heritage from Owasso High School. Benedict died on February 8, a day after being involved in a physical altercation at his school. On March 13, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma disclosed in a one-page summary report that Benedict’s manner of death was suicide. The case has sparked widespread attention and concern, shedding light on issues of bullying, school safety, and the treatment of transgender, nonbinary, and other gender-expansive students.

But what's been confirmed so far?

Benedict was reportedly assaulted by three girls in a school restroom on February 7.

A family member shared with Tulsa Fox affiliate KOKI messages from Benedict detailing the attack: “I got jumped at school 3 on 1 had to go to the ER.” In these messages, Benedict expressed concern about potential concussion symptoms and recounted the bullying that led to the altercation, writing, “They had been bullying me and my friends and I got tired of it so I poured some water on them and all 3 came after me,” further revealing, “School did not report to the police.”

In a body-worn camera video from an Owasso Police Department school resource officer, Benedict told police that the assault happened after prolonged bullying because of the way Benedict and a transgender friend dressed.

Related: Oklahoma transgender student dies after allegedly assaulted by students at school

In response to the incident and the subsequent public scrutiny, Owasso Public Schools issued a statement emphasizing their protocol and commitment to student safety: “Students were in the restroom for less than two (2) 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.” The statement also addressed the medical response, “Following district protocols, each of the students involved in the altercation was given a health assessment by a district registered nurse.”

The Owasso Police Department, led by Chief Dan Yancey, provided insights into their involvement and ongoing investigation. Chief Yancey told The Advocate, “We understand that people are concerned about this incident and we can assure everyone that this incident is being taken seriously and is being investigated thoroughly.” He elaborated on the procedural aspects, noting, “No report of the incident was made to the Owasso Police Department prior to the notification at the hospital.”

Amidst the investigation and community response, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. offered his condolences and a broader perspective on the situation. Although Benedict was not of Cherokee heritage, they lived within the tribe’s jurisdiction.

“The death of Nex Benedict is a tragedy. As parents, the First Lady and I are heartbroken,” Hoskin wrote. “Nex was a child living within our reservation and deserved love, support and to be kept safe.” Hoskin also highlighted the importance of inclusivity and safety for all children, “All children… benefit from learning in environments in which we celebrate diversity and recognize the dignity of everyone’s experience.”

Despite initial reports suggesting a link to a violent confrontation at Owasso High School, subsequent police statements challenged the notion that physical trauma was the cause, leaving a void filled with uncertainty and grief.

“From our ongoing investigation, initial information from the medical examiner’s office after a complete autopsy shows the decedent did not die as a result of trauma,” the Owasso Police Department wrote in a statement on Facebook, without providing any further information on Benedict’s cause or manner of death.

Nick Boatman, a lieutenant with the Owasso Police Department, told The Advocate that some reports have been misinterpretations of the department’s assertions.

“The meaning of my response when asked that question was/is nothing is off the table because we don’t charge people with crimes the District Attorney’s Office does. So I cannot say if anything is off the table, I do not speak for them,” Boatman wrote in response to questions about the department’s release of information. “The reporter that printed that made the leap from ’nothing is off the table’ to then print we haven’t ruled out the fight. I have no more comment on the physical altercation whatsoever. The Medical Examiners autopsy report reads ‘did not die as a result of trauma‘, that won’t change. We still await the toxicology report from the Medical Examiner’s Office, as well as the official Cause of Death. We will have no further updates until we get those reports.”

In mid-March, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma issued a one-page summary report that indicated that Benedict’s cause of death was toxicity from a combination of diphenhydramine and fluoxetine, commonly known as the antihistamine Benadryl and anti-depressant Prozac. The medical examiner ruled the manner of death as suicide. However, the department said it would not release a full report for 10 business days.

As the criminal investigation into Benedict’s death continues, the U.S. Department of Education announced a federal civil rights investigation into the environment of bullying that potentially contributed to Benedict’s death.

The community’s efforts to honor Benedict and address the underlying issues included nationwide vigils and fundraising. A GoFundMe campaign for Benedict’s family has raised over $150,000, exceeding the $15,000 goal set. The family emphasized their appreciation and commitment to using the funds to support children in asserting their identities. At a local vigil, friends shared that Benedict used he and him pronouns and identified as transgender. Early reports circulated that Benedict was nonbinary and used they and them pronouns.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include Nex Benedict’s cause of death according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.