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Vigils held across U.S. for nonbinary Oklahoma teen who died following school bathroom fight

Dozens gather on Boston Common to mourn nonbinary Oklahoma teen
Dozens gather on Boston Common to mourn nonbinary Oklahoma teen 01:00

EDMOND, Oklahoma - Vigils were held across the country for Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died one day after a fight in a high school bathroom.

More than two dozen people gathered at an Oklahoma church for the vigil at All Saints Episcopal Church in McAlester which was organized by the McAlester Rainbow Connection. It was one of two Friday night in Oklahoma, the first of more than a dozen vigils scheduled nationwide through Monday.

Dozens of people also gathered on the Boston Common Saturday night to remember the teen. They were joined by local LGBTQ+ and Indigenous community leaders who spoke at the vigil.

Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old Oklahoma student, died the day after a fight in an Owasso High School bathroom. 

Benedict identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. Three girls, who were picking on Benedict and some friends, attacked the teen for pouring water on them, Benedict told police in a video released Friday. 

The teen's mother called emergency responders to the home the day after the fight, saying Benedict's breathing was shallow, their eyes were rolling back and their hands were curled, according to audio also released by Owasso police. 

Matt Blancett, who organized the vigil with the Rainbow Connection, an LGBTQ+ group, said it was important to hold a vigil in McAlester because of the murder of Dustin Parker, a transgender man, in 2020. 

"It shows people that we have a community, we are here, we're not going anywhere," Blancett said. 

Massachusetts activists say Nex's death is a reminder to step up effort to protect LGBTQ+ and Indigenous young people across the country.

"May we remember Nex. May we fight like hell for you. May all our children from the river to the sea, to Turtle Island be able to grow old and grow safely," said Reggie Alkiewicz, who is the Civic Engagement Coordinator at the North American Indian Center of Boston.

All Saints Priest Janie Koch said it is important for people to reach out for support. 

"It is very very important as the gamut of emotions are cycling to watch out for each other, to be mindful of one another," Koch said. 

In audio of the call to police, Benedict's mother, Sue Benedict, said she wanted to file charges. The officer who responded can be heard in the hospital video explaining that the teen started the altercation by throwing the water and the court would view it as a mutual fight. 

According to a police search warrant, Benedict's mother indicated to police on Feb. 7 that she didn't want to file charges at that time. She instead asked police to speak to officials at Owasso High School about issues on campus among students. 

The Feb. 9 search warrant, which was filed with the court on Feb. 21, also shows investigators took 137 photographs at the school, including inside the girl's bathroom where the fight occurred.

They also collected two swabs of stains from the bathroom and retrieved records and documents of the students involved in the altercation. 

While the two-week-old warrant states that police were seeking evidence in a felony murder, the department has since said Benedict's death was not a result of injuries suffered in the fight, based on the preliminary results of the autopsy. 

The police department has said it won't comment further on the teen's cause of death until toxicology and other autopsy results are completed. 

Additional vigils are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in various Oklahoma cities and others have been held or are planned in several states, including California, Washington, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas and New York. 

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