Non-binary teen Nex Benedict didn’t die from trauma, police say

Oklahoma non-binary teen Nex Benedict, who died on 8 February 2024, wears a light coloured shirt and dark vest as they stand outside

Authorities in Oklahoma have said preliminary findings suggest the death of non-binary teenager Nex Benedict, who died a day after a physical altercation at school, wasn’t related to “trauma”.

Nex Benedict, 16, died on 8 February, one day after telling their family they had been involved in a physical altercation in the toilets at Owasso High School. 

Preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office indicated that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma”, the Owasso Police Department said in a statement released on Wednesday (21 February). 

The official cause of death is “currently pending”, awaiting the findings of toxicology and other test results, with an official autopsy report to be released at a later date. 

The Benedict family said that, while the investigation is still ongoing, the early details about the incident are “troubling at best”, according to a statement reported by KTUL

“We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly and expediently,” the family said. 

You may like to watch

“The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy.”

On 7 February, a physical altercation in a toilet on the school’s west campus was broken up by other students and a faculty member who was supervising outside, police said. 

All those involved in the incident walked to the assistant principal’s and nurse’s office. Parents and guardians were contacted, and the students were given a health assessment by a registered nurse at the school. 

While it was determined an ambulance wasn’t required at the time, a nurse suggested Benedict be taken to a hospital for further examination. 

An Owasso school resource officer went to the Bailey Medical Center, where Benedict was being examined, and interviewed the teen and their guardian.

The following afternoon, Owasso Fire Department medics responded to a medical emergency involving the teenager. They were taken to a pediatric emergency room where they later died, police said. 

Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother, who adopted them, told The Independent that the teenager was bullied at school for being transgender. 

“I said: ‘You’ve got to be strong and look the other way, because these people don’t know who you are’,” she said. “I didn’t know how bad it had gotten.”

The bullying reportedly started at the beginning of the 2023 school year, just after Oklahoma passed a bill banning trans people from using toilets that match their gender identity

Nex’s sister, Malia Pila, said the teen’s gender identity was “not an issue or anything that anybody cared about” within the family, who can trace their roots to the Choctaw Nation.

Sue added that Benedict was a straight-A student who enjoyed drawing, loved to read, played the video games Ark and Minecraft and loved their cat Zeus. 

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

GoFundMe has been created to help the family with funeral costs, and has raised more than $95,300 (approximately £75,000) so far. 

In an update posted on Tuesday, Sue said the rest of the funds raised “will go to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex’s name”.