No charges to be filed in fight involving Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict, DA says

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No charges will be filed in connection with the fight that happened the day before Nex Benedict, a nonbinary high school student, died by suicide in Oklahoma, the district attorney investigating the case said Thursday.

The fight in the high school bathroom appeared to be an “instance of mutual combat,” Stephen Kunzweiler, Tulsa County’s district attorney, said in a statement announcing his decision not to charge anyone.

Kunzweiler also noted that Owasso police officers discovered “some brief notes” that were written by Nex and “appeared to be related to the suicide.”

“Although the notes do not make any reference to the earlier fight or difficulties at school, the parents indicated that Benedict reported being picked upon for various reasons while at school,” Kunzweiler wrote in the release, adding that the contents of the notes would not be released.

Nex was transgender and used he and they pronouns.

All of the students involved in the fight were minors, the DA said, adding that “if charges were justified, those charges would be handled as a delinquent child cause of action in a juvenile court of law.”

“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,” Kunzweiler wrote.

Nex, 16, got into a fight with other students at the Owasso High School West Campus, northeast of Tulsa, on Feb. 7. His mother took him to the hospital and called police to report the fight.

According to body camera video from a police interview at the hospital, Nex said three students “jumped” him after he threw water on them because they were bullying him and his friend for the way they dressed.

Nex had reportedly told his mom that he faced bullying at school because of his gender identity.

Police were investigating whether his death on Feb. 8, which was later determined to be by suicide, was at all connected to the fight the day before.

Preliminary information from an autopsy report released Feb. 21 showed that Nex’s death was not trauma-related, police said at the time. But days later, police said the fight was not being ruled out as having contributed to or caused Nex’s death.

A report from the medical examiner’s office said the probable cause of death was “combined toxicity” from two drugs. According to the district attorney’s office release, both were legally available in Nex’s home.

The medical examiner’s report also noted that Nex had visible “superficial injuries” consistent with the fight the day before, according to the DA’s statement. None of the injuries were determined to have caused Nex’s death, though.

Kunzweiler said his office reviewed law enforcement reports from two incidents related to Nex’s case — the fight and the police visit in the hospital.

According to Kunzweiler, the fight occurred in an Owasso High School bathroom and involved two groups of students who did not know each other before they met during in-school suspension.

In the days leading up to the fight, the groups “were antagonizing each other,” Kunzweiler said, and none of the students reported the behavior to school administrators or teachers.

In a statement last week, the family called on schools, administrators and lawmakers to come together and push for reforms that seek to end bullying.

“Reforms creating school environments that are built upon the pillars of respect, inclusion and grace, and aim to eliminate bullying and hate, are the types of change that all involved should be able to rally behind,” Nex’s family said.

In the release, Kunzweiler called Nex’s death by suicide a “tragedy.”

“The reasons why any person commits suicide do not provide answers to those who are left behind,” Kunzweiler said in Thursday’s statement. “Suicide is sad, and our country is beset by far too many instances where insufficient resources are allocated to combat this growing crisis.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.

If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386 or the Rainbow Youth Project at 1-317-643-4888.

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