Police say murder charges in Nex Benedict case are still ‘on the table’

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

The Owasso Police Department have confirmed that they are considering murder charges in relation to the death of Nex Benedict, despite previously saying the teenager “did not die as a result of trauma”. 

In response, 16-year-old Benedict’s family have vowed to conduct an independent investigation. 

Nex Benedict, who was gender non-conforming and used he/they pronouns according to his friends (as confirmed in this NBC interview), died on 8 February, one day after telling his family that he had been involved in a physical altercation in the toilets at Owasso High School.

The police are using Facebook to post updates about their investigation.

Last week, preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office, shared by the police, indicated that Benedict “did not die as a result of trauma”.

However, in an interview with independent news site, Popular Information, OPD spokesperson Lieutenant Nick Boatman said murder charges are still “on the table”. 

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His comments follow a 9 February “affidavit for [a] search warrant”, seen by Popular information, which states “foul play” is suspected. The medical examiner did not “explicitly” say Benedict “did not die from something as a result of that fight”, Boatman said.

The police had “reached out to the medical examiner’s office to try to head off some of this national scrutiny” around the death of Benedict, the lieutenant revealed, emphasising that they are waiting for toxicology results, which Boatman interpreted as “kind of a red flag… assuming when I get that [toxicology report] back, something’s going to be there”. 

The facts known so far by Benedict’s family are “troubling at best”, their lawyer said. 

”We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly and expediently,” he added. “Notwithstanding, the family is independently interviewing witnesses and collecting all available evidence. 

“The Benedict family calls on all school, local, state and national officials to join forces to determine why this happened, to hold those responsible to account and to ensure it never happens again.”

Recordings released on Friday (23 February) by the Owasso Police Department show the student conscious and alert when talking to officer Caleb Thompson on 7 February – the day before the teenager died.

In the body cam footage, Nex and his mother can be heard claiming an altercation broke out in the school toilets after three girls antagonised the youngster and a friend.

A statement posted on Facebook by the district attorney’s office said they could not comment while a police investigation was being conducted. 

“The unexpected death of a person, especially a child is a tragedy. A family in our community is grieving and we empathise with their sorrow during this difficult time,” the post said. 

Benedict’s death has sparked vigils held across the US. It has also attracted commentary from right-wing figureheads such as Oklahoma’s state superintendent of education, Ryan Walters, who claimed it is being “exploited [for] political gain [by] “radical leftists”.