Police Give Update on Oklahoma Nonbinary Student’s Death

Photo: Courtesy of the Benedict Family

An Oklahoma teen who identified as nonbinary has died following an altercation in a high-school bathroom that took place earlier this month.

Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old gender-fluid student, was reportedly assaulted in the girls’ bathroom at Owasso High School on February 7, Tulsa NBC affiliate KJRH reports. According to the Owasso Police Department, Nex suffered head injuries after a “physical altercation” took place. But Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother and adoptive guardian, told the Independent that three older girls had allegedly attacked Nex and another transgender student in the high-school bathroom, knocking them to the floor, where Nex hit their head.

When she arrived at the school, Benedict said she found Nex with bruises all over their face and with scratches on the back of their head. She claimed the school did not call the police or an ambulance, instead informing her that Nex would be suspended for two weeks. (In a statement to the Advocate, Owasso Police Department chief Dan Yancey said authorities were not notified of the incident until Nex had arrived at the hospital later that day.) Benedict then took Nex to the Bailey Medical Center in Owasso, where they spoke to a school-resource officer and were discharged.

The following day, Benedict was preparing to leave for an appointment in Tulsa when she said Nex collapsed in the living room. By the time EMT officers arrived, Benedict said Nex had stopped breathing. They were declared dead on the evening of February 8 from the hospital.

The Owasso Police Department initially told the Cut that “this incident is being taken seriously and is being investigated thoroughly,” while noting to the Independent that they are currently interviewing school staff and students.

Police later said that a preliminary autopsy shows Nex didn’t “die as a result of trauma,” and that a final autopsy would be released at a later date. Earlier in the week, police spokesperson Nick Boatman had said authorities were waiting on both toxicology and autopsy reports before filing any charges, though Boatman added that “all charges will be on the table” once the cause of death has been confirmed.

In a statement provided to the Cut, an Owasso Public Schools spokesperson said that the students were in the bathroom for roughly two minutes, and that the altercation was broken up by fellow students and a bathroom attendant, at which point the involved students were escorted to the assistant principal’s and nurse’s offices, where statements were taken. The spokesperson said school officials had determined that ambulance services were not needed per district protocol, but had recommended one student be taken to the hospital for additional care.

“The loss of a student, a member of the Ram Family and the Owasso community, is devastating,” the spokesperson said. “We recognize the impact that this event has had on the entire school community and it is our priority to foster an environment where everyone feels heard, supported, and safe.”

According to Benedict, Nex had been bullied at school since the beginning of 2023, just a few months after Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed an anti-trans bathroom bill into law. LGBTQ+ advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma described Nex’s death as a “hate crime” in a statement on their website, pointing to the “hateful rhetoric spewed by leaders in our state” as well as the far-right and often anti-trans social-media account Libs of TikTok, which had posted a video mocking an Owasso High School teacher for supporting queer and trans students. That teacher, whom Benedict says Nex admired, resigned following the uproar from the post. Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, did not respond to the Independent’s request for comment but denied any wrongdoing or connection to Nex’s death on Twitter. The Cut has also reached out to Raichik for comment.

“We want to be clear, whether Nex died as a direct result of injuries sustained in the brutal hate-motivated attack at school or not, Nex’s death is a result of being the target of physical and emotional harm because of who Nex was,” Freedom Oklahoma wrote.

“I was so proud of Nex,” Benedict added. “They were going someplace, they were so free.”

This post has been updated.

Police Give Update on Oklahoma Nonbinary Student’s Death