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Fight hasn’t been ruled out as cause of Nex Benedict’s death, police say


OWASSO, Okla. — Authorities haven’t ruled out that a fight at school could have contributed to the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old transgender student whose case has garnered international media attention.

The Owasso Police Department said in a statement last week that “preliminary information” from the medical examiner’s office indicated that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma.” The department added  that further comments on Benedict’s cause of death were pending until toxicology results are released.

Some community members and others on social media took the department’s statement to mean that any potential injuries Benedict sustained from the fight did not cause his death. However, Lt. Nick Boatman, a spokesperson for the department, told NBC News on Tuesday that that wasn’t what the statement was intended to mean.

“We did not interpret that in any way,” he said of the word “trauma,” which he said was used by the medical examiner’s office. He said the medical examiner’s office did not say that it had ruled out the fight as causing or contributing to Benedict’s death and that “people shouldn’t make assumptions either way.”

The department doesn’t normally release such information early, he said, but did so to be transparent and in response to an inordinate amount of public pressure because of the  international media coverage the case has attracted. The department also wanted to address a “fury of misinformation on social media,” including that Benedict was “beat to a bloody pulp and had to be carried out and wasn’t taken to the nurse” — all of which he said isn’t true. 

A vigil was held in honor of Nex Benedict in Owasso, Okla., on Sunday. Shelby Tauber for NBC News

Boatman said the department released video and audio recordings to address similar misinformation about Benedict’s injuries immediately after the fight and to show that he was escorted to the nurse’s office. That included body camera footage of an interview with Benedict and his mother in the hospital, as well as 911 audio from the day Benedict died. He said the department provided the footage and 911 calls to Benedict’s family through their lawyer before releasing the information publicly. 

The department doesn’t have a timeline for when it will receive toxicology results, he said, adding that such lab results can sometimes take months. He said no charges have been filed and no arrests have been made in the case yet. 

More from NBC News on Nex Benedict

Benedict’s name has become a rallying cry among the LGBTQ community in Oklahoma and nationwide, with advocates hoping to draw attention to alleged bullying Benedict faced in school and state policies targeting queer and trans students — both of which friends and advocates believe contributed to his death. 

Benedict’s mother, Sue Benedict, previously told the Independent that the teen was bullied due to his gender identity. Friends have told NBC News that Benedict was transgender and primarily went by he/him pronouns at school but also used they/them pronouns, which Benedict’s family also used. Several other friends said Benedict preferred he/him pronouns.

In the body camera footage of a police officer’s interview with Benedict on Feb. 7, the day of the fight and the day before he died, he described how three students “jumped” him after he threw water on them because they were bullying him and his friend over the way that they dressed.

In audio of a 911 call from Benedict’s mother on Feb. 8, she said the 16-year-old’s breathing was shallow and their hands were “posturing,” which refers to an involuntary movement that can indicate abnormal brain activity.



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