American tourist’s beating death in Greece: What to know
ABC News(ZAKYNTHOS, Greece) — At least nine men have been arrested in connection with the beating death of a 22-year-old American tourist outside a bar on the Greek island of Zakynthos last week. But police there are on the hunt for more suspects.
Bakari Henderson, of Austin, Texas, was at a bar with friends in the island’s village of Laganas, popular among tourists and known for its nightlife, when a fight broke out with another group of people in the early morning hours of July 7. The fight escalated into a brawl outside the bar, and Henderson was battered to death in the street, according to police in Zakynthos.
Pavlos Kolokotsas, the mayor of Zakynthos, told ABC News that both groups involved had been drinking extensively.
An autopsy on Henderson’s body was completed this week. The coroner told ABC News that the young man suffered severe head injuries in the incident. All of the strikes were to the head, and there did not appear to be any defensive wounds on his body.
While it could not be determined exactly when Henderson died, the coroner told ABC News that he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Henderson’s body was transported to Athens and then to the United States within two days of the completed autopsy. A toxicology report will be released in several weeks, the coroner said.
Surveillance footage from a nearby security camera, which was shared with ABC News, appears to show Henderson being pursued by a group of people as he runs down a sidewalk. One man appears to tackle Henderson and throw him onto a parked car, while the others join in the beating. A large crowd remained on the sidewalk for several minutes after the violent commotion.
Suspects facing intentional homicide charges
Nine men — one Greek, seven Serbs and a British citizen of Serb origin — have been arrested so far and are accused of intentional homicide. Investigators are searching for six more suspects identified from the surveillance footage, according to Greek authorities.
Four of the men arrested, all Serb nationals, appeared before a judge Thursday for initial testimony regarding Henderson’s death. The judge was expected to decide whether to remand the four men in custody pending trial or set bail. The other five were jailed pending trial after hours-long testimonies in court Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
No trial date has been set.
An attorney for one of the nine arrested told ABC News that his client has no criminal record. The lawyer admitted his client caused some bodily harm, but said he didn’t have homicidal intent and didn’t hit Henderson in the head. He said his client is “devastated, literally devastated.”
“He did not hit [the victim] on the head, and death was caused by traumatic head injury,” the attorney said. “I am convinced that it will be proven that he was not the one who caused the death of the unfortunate American.”
Friends, family struggling to cope
Friends of Henderson who were in Greece with him told ABC News that the suspects were “looking for a fight” and punched Henderson first. Henderson attempted to get away from the mob during the brawl and became separated from his friends, they said.
By the time they made it back to him, the attackers had dispersed and Henderson was lying on the ground, the friends said.
Henderson’s friend, Daniel Brown, told ABC News that Henderson was visiting him in Greece. Brown said he has known Henderson for years and that they attended the University of Arizona together.
Brown told ABC News he was not at the bar when the fight broke out, but he was supposed to meet up with Henderson and their friends later. Upon hearing what had happened, Brown said he raced to the hospital and learned his friend was dead.
Henderson’s family said he was in Greece working on a photo shoot to launch a clothing line.
“Bakari was an inspiration to all he met. He loved life and lived it to the fullest,” his family said in a statement obtained by ABC News.
Henderson had recently graduated from the University of Arizona, which issued a statement following the news of what the university called his “untimely death.”
“All of us at the University of Arizona are shocked and saddened by the loss of our recent graduate, Bakari Henderson,” the university’s president, Robert Robbins, said in a July 7 statement. “Our hearts and prayers are with his friends and family. I can only imagine the deep sense of loss they must be feeling at his untimely death. It is always a tragedy when a young life ends before it has really yet to begin.”
Henderson’s friend, Travis Jenkins, recalled him as someone with a bright future.
“He was a big thinker. He loved big ideas and he was going to do a lot of great things,” Jenkins told ABC News.
Jenkins added that fighting was uncharacteristic of Henderson.
“Bakari was not one to act aggressively like that,” he said. “He was always the one who was the peacemaker.”
Sam Hindsman, another friend of Henderson’s, also told ABC News that the incident was difficult to process, given what he knew of Henderson’s personality.
“Such a fun-loving person and he’s so easy-going,” Hindsman said. “So many people just loved him, so it was hard to believe.”
John Gramlich, a childhood friend of Henderson’s, told ABC News he is still shocked by his violent death.
“The fact that it’s one of our best friends who is one of the most outgoing and easy persons to get along with — it just doesn’t feel real, and I still cannot believe what happened,” Gramlich said. “The right thing we need to do is remember the really positive memories we had with him, and obviously everyone wants answers and wants people to pay for what they did.”
Jordan Zylberberg, Henderson’s friend from Hyde Park High School in Austin, told ABC News he believes Henderson would not want to let what happened to him discourage others from traveling abroad.
“If Bakari were here he would say you can’t think about it that way, traveling is beautiful,” Zylberberg said. “He loved to travel more than anything, and I don’t think he would want people to look at this and take that away.”
A memorial service for Henderson will be held in Austin on Friday, followed by a funeral service on Saturday.
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