Remembering Nex Benedict: Understanding the Tragic Event and Its Aftermath

Written by: Josiah Parks 

Photography by: CreaseWorks

The name “Nex Benedict” has been spoken by millions; their face has become a national icon, yet seeing Nex, truly, along with their death, has been shrouded with difficulty and confusion.

On February 7th, 2024, Nex, a 16 year old non-binary student, was in Owasso High School when a fight broke out against three older girls inside the girls bathroom. According to Nex, later interviewed by a police officer at the hospital, they recognized the girls as the same who bullied them before for, “the way that we [Nex and their friend] dressed.” Sue Benedict, Nex’s legal guardian and biological grandmother was aware her child was being bullied for being trans gender in early 2023, stating: “I said “you’ve got to be strong and look the other way, because these people don’t know who you are.” “I didn’t know how bad it had gotten.” In the bathroom, Nex heard the girls picking at their laugh, and decided to “pour water on them”. Then, all three attacked Nex. They were beaten to the ground, hit their head on the floor, “blacked out”, and the fight was broken up by some other students and a teacher in “less than two minutes” According to Owasso Public Schools in a statement made later on. One source, who claimed to be the mother of the victims best friend, said to 2 News: “Nex couldn’t walk to the nurses station on their own.” Later footage of the hallway outside the restroom revealed this to be incorrect. Further speculation of Nex being bloodied was also incorrect.

While the school considered it “not required” to call an ambulance, Sue Benedict disagreed. Upon hearing the news of the assault, she rushed them to Bailey’s Medical Center at around 3 P.M. to receive treatment. It was only then, at the hospital, when the police were called. The police officer who was called in reacted by saying: “The fact of the matter is they dropped the ball on this one, not notifying me right away.” The same officer also said to Nex “the moment [Nex] threw that water you've now assaulted somebody, you've made the first jab…” which is a statement that’s been criticized for being legally dubious. Tulsa attorney Clark Brewster has stated in an interview with KTUL "An assault in the legal terminology is an act that gives rise to someone believing they're in imminent threat for injury or death. So an assault is very defined in the state of Oklahoma," said Brewster. "In this instance, it's not an assault."

Additionally, a school resource officer was at the hospital to take note. While the officer failed to do the same at the actual time of the fight, on February 20th, OPS has since released a statement:
“District administrator began taking statements from the students present in the restroom and began contacting parents/guardians of the students involved in the physical altercation.
OPS still has not answered why they deemed it unnecessary to call the police, or how a fight can last in less than two minutes with “a staff member who was supervising outside of the restroom”. Any attempts by news outlets for OPS to clarify their statements have been met with a silent point to the police investigation. That evening, Nex Benedict was released from the hospital.
The next morning- according to Ms. Benedict in an interview with Independent- Nex had collapsed in the living room where she and they were trying to leave for Tulsa. Ms. Benedict called an ambulance, Nex was rushed to the hospital yet again, and was declared dead on February 8th, 2024. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed by autopsy or toxicology report.

A strange frenzy resulted after the news of Nex’s death was released: the general public wanting to know everything about the investigation immediately, LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups demanding Nex’s attackers be taken to Justice, Owasso High School drawing the curtains and hoping things quietly go away, Nex’s family trying to grieve the death of their child in peace, and the Owasso Police Department attempting to relay an investigation while simultaneously conducting it, the first and last of which causing mass confusion.

While many people believed Nex died as a result of head trauma sustained during the fight, (fair, seeing how this originally was speculated by KJRH, which has since been retracted) OPD released a statement on February 21st, relaying preliminary information of the medical examiner, stating that Nex “did not die as a result of trauma.”  As vague as it is, what  does this actually mean? To some, including AP news, it meant to say Nex’s death was “not result of injuries from high school fight”, causing Owasso Police Lt. Nick Boatman later to clarify on Popular Information:
Boatman said the medical examiner did not explicitly tell him that Nex "did not die from something as a result of that fight." But that's how Boatman interpreted the medical examiner's comments.””
And again, on NBC news:
“He said that the medical examiner’s office didn’t say it had ruled out the fight as causing or contributing to Benedict’s death and that “people shouldn’t make assumptions either way.”
So what does this actually mean?

It means OPD has decided on a “bread crumb” strategy: give out enough information to “quell the rabble”, but not enough for them to form a clear picture of events, leaving room for confusion and speculation.

What is missing from this hodge podge of information is Nex. While “Nex Benedict” as an icon gets the fervor of national attention, Nex themself gets tossed aside as one headline gets thrown and smashes into another. After all, how can a nation properly grieve if it cannot know what exactly it is grieving about?

Nex was not an icon, or a martyr, but a human person who died when they shouldn’t have. Nex wanted what many people in the LGBTQ community want, to live as their authentic selves without intrusion; they did what many teenagers did, played Minecraft, loved their cat, dressed as they chose; and when bullied, they did as many of us would do, they got tired of it and decided to do something about it.

They couldn’t have known what would happen next, nor could anyone else.
Candlelight vigil’s were held for Nex in Owasso, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. In Tulsa, volunteers were seen relighting and replacing extinguished flames as time went on. Once the dust has settled and the fervor dies, Nex Benedict will still be here, so long as those of us remain steadfast amidst the frenzy, holding a flame with a steady hand.