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Death of Nonbinary Teen Nex Benedict After School Fight Is Ruled a Suicide, Medical Examiner Says

Oklahoma City

The death of a nonbinary student the day after a fight inside an Oklahoma high school restroom has been ruled a suicide, the state medical examiner’s office said Wednesday.

A summary autopsy report was released more than a month after the death of 16-year-old Nex Benedict, a student at Owasso High School. Family members said Benedict had been bullied at school and the teenager’s death in February drew concern from LGBTQ+ rights groups, as well as attention from Oklahoma’s governor and the White House.

“From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide,” Owasso Police Department Lt. Nick Boatman said in a statement. “However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiners Office.”

In a 911 call on Feb. 8, Sue Benedict — the teen’s grandmother and legal guardian — had expressed concern about a head injury. The teenager was conscious and alert after the fight a day earlier when they told police about the attack by three girls that occurred after the teen squirted them with water, according to police video released last month.

The report shows Benedict had toxic levels of two drugs in their system and died of an overdose. A complete autopsy will be released in 10 days in accordance with state law, the medical examiner’s office said.

Boatman would not confirm whether or not police found a note from Benedict at the scene.

A lawyer for the Benedict family, Jacob Biby, told The Associated Press that he was working on a statement from the family Wednesday but declined to comment further.

In video footage from the hospital the day of the altercation, Benedict explains to an officer that the girls had been picking on them and their friends because of the way they dressed. Benedict claims that in the bathroom the students said “something like: why do they laugh like that,” referring to Benedict and their friends.

“And so I went up there and I poured water on them, and then all three of them came at me,” Benedict tells the officer from a hospital bed.

Paramedics responded to the family’s house and performed CPR on the teen before rushing them to the hospital, where they later died.

Family members have said Benedict was nonbinary, which means they didn’t identify as strictly male or female.

“Bullying and harassment have a significant impact on students and, tragically, many of these youths believe that suicide is the only option for peace,” said Brandon Dilawari, a case manager at Rainbow Youth Project USA, an Indiana-based group that aims to improve the safety and wellness of LGBTQ+ young people. “This is not an isolated incident by any means.”

The group reported a dramatic spike in calls from Oklahoma to its national crisis hotline after news of the teen’s death became public.

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