Nex Benedict’s mother blindsided by release of 911 call and body cam footage: ‘I lost it’

‘I found out just minutes before and I lost it,’ Sue Benedict tells The Independent. ‘That was my baby, my child’

Bevan Hurley
Saturday 24 February 2024 19:35 GMT
Non-binary teen Nex Benedict recounts school attack

Nex Benedict’s mother says she was blindsided and distressed by the release of body camera footage and 911 calls by police investigating the non-binary student’s death one day after a school fight.

On Friday night, the Owasso Police Department released a 21-minute video of an officer interviewing Nex, 16, in hospital after they were involved in a bathroom fight with three students at Owasso High School on 7 February.

Nex, who used them/they pronouns, appears alert while telling the officer that they poured water on three girls who had been bullying their friends for “the way that we dress”.

“Then all three of them came at me,” Nex says. “They grabbed on my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground.” Nex says they were beaten repeatedly and blacked out.

The police school resource officer tells Nex and mother Sue Benedict that Owasso Public Schools had “dropped the ball” by not reporting the fight.

The officer discourages Ms Benedict from filing a police report, saying that it could expose Nex to a charge of assault and battery for tipping water on the other girls.

He says “everyone gets in trouble on this one”, and it would be a shame for Nex to face prosecution for “something so minuscule”.

“There was three of them,” Sue Benedict tells the officer. “And (they) only threw water on one.”

Nex Benedict, left, and their mother Sue Benedict, shown on police body cam being interviewed in hospital on 7 February (Owasso Police Department )

Owasso police also released school surveillance footage of Nex being escorted from the school and a 911 call made by Ms Benedict after the student collapsed at home on 8 February.

Ms Benedict tells the dispatcher that she had nursing experience, and expresses concern about Nex’s head injury while describing their symptoms.

“I hope this ain’t from her head. They were supposed to have checked her out good,” Ms Benedict says on the call.

Nex was taken to hospital by fire department medics and pronounced dead in a hospital emergency room later that day.

Ms Benedict told The Independent in a text message that she had not seen the footage prior to its release, and found it deeply upsetting.

“I found out just minutes before and I lost it,” she said. “That was my baby, my child.”

The Independent has asked the Owasso Police Department whether the footage was proactively released, and for their protocols for informing victims’ relatives about the release of evidence in active investigations.

On Wednesday, Owasso police said in a statement that initial autopsy findings indicated Nex had not died due to trauma, and suggested it was not as a result of injuries sustained in the bathroom fight.

Lieutenant Nick Boatman, the Owasso police spokesman, later told the Popular Information newsletter that the medical examiner had not explicitly told him that Nex’s death was unrelated to the head injuries.

Ms Benedict has raised doubts about the police investigation, telling the Popular Information newsletter she felt the statement was a “big cover” put out to calm tensions in the community.

The family said through a lawyer they are conducting an independent investigation, and that the facts surrounding the case are “troubling at best”.

Nex Benedict, 16, died one day after being assaulted in a bathroom at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, police say (Courtesy of Benedict family)

Court documents obtained by The Independent show the police had initially treated Nex’s death as a possible homicide.

On 9 February, detectives from the Owasso Police Department obtained a warrant to search the school where Nex was injured for cellphones, laptops and “blood stained articles”.

Detective Penny Hamrick requested access to students’ school lockers and other personal property for evidence of “felony murder”.

Investigators took 137 photographs of the school, including inside the bathroom where the fight occurred, according to the warrant.

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

Nex’s death has renewed focus on dozens of anti-trans bills being considered by Oklahoma’s state legislature.

Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt last year signed an executive order defining an individual’s sex as the “biological sex” at birth and has targeted gender-affirming care for trans youths.

Republican state lawmakers passed a bill that required public school students to use bathrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Nex Benedict had been bullied for at least a year at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, their mother says (Courtesy of Benedict family)

Ms Benedict previously told The Independent that Nex had been bullied for more than a year due to their non-binary identity, and it had worsened after the anti-LGBTQ legislation was passed.

On Thursday, a state senator from eastern Oklahoma described LGBTQ people as “filth” at a public meeting.

According to the Tahlequah Daily Press, Tom Woods was asked why state lawmakers were so obsessed with passing legislation targeting LGBTQ children.

“We are a Republican state — supermajority — in the House and Senate,” Mr Woods replied.

“I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma.”

Vigils are being held for Nex across Oklahoma and in several states around the country.

On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that she was “absolutely heartbroken” over Nex’s death.

“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.

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