What led to beating death of 22-year-old U.S. tourist in Greece? Police search for answers


Only a few months after graduating from college, Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old aspiring business entrepreneur, was planning to launch an environmentally and cost-friendly clothing line. That thirst for new experiences took Henderson and two friends to Greece where he planned to do a photo shoot for the business.

But Friday his trip took a dark turn, leaving his family asking whether a simple incident — setting beers on a table — really did lead to his death. Early that morning Henderson, who is from Austin, Texas, was beaten to death by a mob of at least 10 people outside a bar in Laganas, a popular tourist destination known for its nightlife on the island of Zakynthos.

Eight suspects — six Serbs, one Greek and a British citizen — have been charged in connection with Henderson’s death and are scheduled to appear in court Thursday.


The circumstances surrounding the attack are unclear, but local media reported that the trouble began after Henderson set two beers on a table occupied by the Serbs. Other reports suggested his attempt to take a selfie with a bar employee somehow triggered an altercation.

A State Department spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs said in an email Tuesday that Greek police in Zakynthos notified the U.S. Embassy of Henderson’s death. “Our U.S. Embassy in Athens is providing consular assistance. We offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends,” the statement said.

Now, friends and family are left wondering how this could have happened to a young man whom they describe as “extremely kind.”

“There is still a sense of disbelief. We are not sure when it will truly feel real,” said Jan Richardson, Henderson’s aunt and family spokeswoman, on Tuesday.

Richardson said she is thankful that in late May, 17 people in their family traveled to Tucson to see Henderson graduate from college. He attended the University of Arizona on a full academic scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in business finance and entrepreneurship.

“He was more concerned planning an itinerary for us so we could have a good time than wanting to celebrate his success,” Richardson said.


In a Facebook post, Henderson’s friend Daniel Brown said that his new life motto is “BLB,” or “Be Like Bakari.” “I’ll tell myself that every morning as a constant reminder to stay humble, pursue my dreams and never get rattled by the little things life has to throw my way,” Brown wrote.

Some with ties to Greece or who work in the tourism industry fear Henderson’s death could paint the country as an unsafe tourist destination.

“It’s tragic that this young man was murdered,” said Gregory Pappas, the founder of New York-based Greek America Foundation, a charitable group that organizes service project trips for vulnerable groups in Greece. “But crime isn’t part of this culture. Greece is safe.”

Nicholas Kontis, a travel journalist, was born in Greece and frequently travels there and gives advice to people planning trips to the country. “Greece is going through trying times and this incident sheds a bad light on tourism in Greece,” Kontis said. “Will people stop coming? No. It is an isolated incident, but nonetheless Greece can’t have this.”

The debt-stricken country relies heavily on tourism as a major source of revenue. Tourism experts say that Greece is on track in 2017 to experience one of its biggest increases in tourism in the last 10 years. About 25 million people visit Greece annually, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

In 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Athens issued a security message to U.S. citizens to be aware of “unprovoked harassment and violent attacks” following a rise in racist violence directed toward “persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants.” Henderson was African American, though the motive for the attack was unclear.


“People haven’t expressed any concern,” said Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of Travel Leaders Group, an international travel company that organizes trips for people to Greece and other destinations. Vlitas said that his daughter is vacationing in Greece, and that he is confident she’s safe. “One tragic incident shouldn’t paint an entire country in a bad light.”

Follow me on Twitter @melissaetehad


India’s highest court temporarily lifts a nationwide ban on cattle slaughter

Fake news fuels nationalism and Islamophobia — sound familiar? In this case, it’s in India


Iraqi forces and rescue crews in Mosul look to save civilians and pull bodies from the rubble