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A search warrant reveals additional details about a nonbinary teen’s death in Oklahoma

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LA Post: A search warrant reveals additional details about a nonbinary teen’s death in Oklahoma
AP
KEN MILLER and PHILIP MARCELO
February 23, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A recently released police search warrant has revealed more details in the case of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary Oklahoma student who died a day after a high school bathroom fight that may have been prompted by bullying over gender identity.

The warrant filed Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court shows that when Benedict’s mother, Sue, called 911 on Feb. 8, the 16-year-old's eyes had rolled back into their head, their hands were curled and they were struggling to breathe.

Paramedics responding to the family’s house in the Tulsa suburb of Owasso performed CPR and rushed them to the hospital, where they later died.

Benedict was able to walk out of the bathroom after the Feb. 7 fight, but they were taken to the hospital later that day and sent home.

Sue Benedict said the school nurse had advised her to take the teen to be checked out after complaining of a headache from hitting their head on the bathroom floor, according to the warrant.

At the hospital, Sue Benedict requested to speak with police but told the officers she didn’t want to file charges at the time, the warrant states. She instead asked police to speak to school officials about issues on campus among students.

Benedict told The Independent later that the teen had suffered bruises all over their face and eyes in the fight, which involved a transgender student and three older girls.

The school district has said the students were in the restroom for less than two minutes before the fight was broken up by other students and a staff member. Police and school officials have not said what provoked the fight.

The family, through their lawyer, declined to comment Friday on the search warrant. Earlier this week, they said they've launched their own independent investigation into what happened.

A vigil for the teenager was planned for Sunday in Owasso.

The warrant, which was signed the day after Benedict’s death, also shows investigators took 137 pictures at the school, including inside the girl’s bathroom where the fight occurred. They additionally collected two swabs of stains from the bathroom and retrieved records and documents of the students involved in the altercation.

While the 2-week-old warrant states 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, which didn’t respond to multiple messages sent Friday, has said it won’t comment further on the teen’s cause of death until toxicology and other autopsy results are completed.

Owasso school officials, meanwhile, said Friday that they requested police obtain the court order to search the school because of state and federal privacy laws regarding the release of confidential student records.

“We are continuing to cooperate with the Owasso Police Department’s ongoing investigation,” Jordan Korphage, a school district spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler, whose office isn’t currently involved in the police investigation, called the death a tragedy but cautioned people against being “swayed by sentiments fueled by the passion of emotions which may be misinformed.”

“A family in our community is grieving and we empathize with their sorrow during this difficult time,” he wrote in an email Friday. “While much has been speculated about this child’s death in social media, we will maintain the integrity of law enforcement’s investigation, and allow them to do their job.”

___

Marcelo reported from New York.

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