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No charges will be filed in nonbinary teen Nex Benedict's death, Oklahoma district attorney says

An Oklahoma district attorney declined to file charges in connection with the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict, officials said Thursday.

Benedict, a 16-year-old student at Owasso High School near Tulsa, died by suicide on Feb. 8, one day after a fight in a high school bathroom. 

"Based upon the investigation of the Owasso Police Department, I am in agreement with their assessment that the filing of juvenile
charges is not warranted," Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler said in a statement. 

"From all of the evidence gathered, this fight was an instance of mutual combat," Kunzweiler wrote. "I do not have a reasonable belief that the State of Oklahoma could sustain its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt if charges were presented for prosecution."

Nex Benedict. CBS News

Benedict, who identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns, was sent to a hospital by a school nurse immediately following the fight. Benedict, while in the hospital, spoke to police officers and told them the bathroom fight had started when three girls harassed them. Benedict responded by throwing water at the girls, which sparked the fight.

Owassa police during their investigation discovered brief notes written by Benedict that appeared to be related to the suicide, Kunzweiler said. The notes didn't reference the fight or difficulties at school. Benedict's parents also told officers that Benedict had "reported being picked upon for various reasons while at school," Kunzweiler said. 

The district attorney's office reviewed law enforcement's reports for two separate incidents related to Benedict, according to Kunzweiler. The first was the fight on Feb. 7, which involved two groups of students who were attending an "in-school suspension" class at the west campus of Owasso High. Neither group had known the other before attending the class, but reports indicate they were antagonizing each other in the days leading up to the fight, Kunzweiler said.

"According to witnesses, the fight was less than one minute in duration after Benedict poured water over two girls while they were in the bathroom," Kunzweiler said. "Apparently, comments were directed about how Benedict laughed, which was followed by the water pouring incident."

Vigil Held At Stonewall In New York City For Nex Benedict, Non-Binary Teen Who Died In Oklahoma
People gather outside the Stonewall Inn for a memorial and vigil for the Oklahoma teenager who died following a fight in a high school bathroom on February 26, 2024, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Owassa police were called to investigate Benedict's death the following day, and the state's medical examiner's office ruled their death a suicide on March 13. 

Benedict's death "is a tragedy for the family who is grieving over the loss of a life they loved," Kunzweiler said in his statement, adding, "Mostly, we are left with questions about what any one of us could have done to prevent the tragedy from happening in the first place."  

According to Kunzweiler, the medical examiner's report noted that superficial injuries consistent with the fight were visible during the autopsy, but it was determined that none of them caused or resulted in death. No evidence was found of an internal injury that caused or resulted in death. The medical examiner's summary report said Benedict died due to the combined toxicity of two different legal medications. 

"Fighting takes place at schools everyday across this nation," Kunzweiler said. "Some fights may be justified. Some fights may be mutual combat. Some fights may be unjustified. When I review a report and make a decision to file a charge I must be convinced - as is every prosecutor - that a crime was committed and that I have a reasonable belief that a judge or a jury would be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed." 

Kunzweiler ended his report by saying he did not have this reasonable belief. 

Benedict's death prompted rallies and vigils in U.S. cities from New York to Los Angeles, with organizers calling their death a reminder of the dangers and persecution the LGBTQ+ community continues to face. 

In a statement released last week, President Biden said, "Bullying is hurtful and cruel, and no one should face the bullying that Nex did. Parents and schools must take reports of bullying seriously."

He added, "In memory of Nex, we must all recommit to our work to end discrimination and address the suicide crisis impacting too many nonbinary and transgender children."

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. You can also chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline here.

For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email

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