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World & Nation

Testimony expected to help explain how a Texas man ended up beaten to death in Greece

In this 2016 photo provided by John Gramlich shows, Bakari Henderson, left, with friend Travis Jenki
Bakari Henderson, left, with friend Travis Jenkins, in Austin, Texas, in 2016.
(John Gramlich via Associated Press)

In a blurry security video from the Greek island bar, young men are seen taking selfies with a woman.

Suddenly, one man slaps a taller one. He doesn’t immediately respond. Then he throws a punch. Others get involved, jostling and punching. The melee moves off camera.

Two other security videos showing the last few minutes of Bakari Henderson’s life are much clearer. In the first, the tall young man in knee-length shorts is seen backing away down the street, his eyes on his encroaching attackers, before aiming a kick at one.

In the next, he darts away to escape, is tackled to the ground and kicked and punched relentlessly by about 10 people.

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Henderson died in July 2017 on the street of the Greek resort town of Laganas on the island of Zakynthos. According to a 55-page indictment, during the final 11 seconds of the early morning beating Henderson received 33 blows and kicks to the head and body — three blows per second.

Why the 22-year-old from Austin, Texas, was battered to death by a mob in a foreign country is the question that his parents, Jill and Phil Henderson, hope to have answered in the murder trial underway in Greece.

Witness testimony scheduled for Thursday is expected to help the court and Henderson’s family better understand what happened in the silent videos.

“The parents of the victim are looking for justice,” said Chryssa Vouldi, one of the lawyers representing the Hendersons. “But they are also looking for answers as to how they lost their child in just 11 seconds in the most brutal manner.”

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Nine people have been charged with involvement in the killing. A 10th man has been identified as being involved but hasn’t been arrested. Six of the defendants are charged with first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence. Three others are charged with lesser crimes.

Only a few months after graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in business, Henderson was planning to launch a clothing line. He was in Greece with friends working on a photo shoot.

Laganas is a party town, known more for its wild nightlife for the 18-to-30 crowd than as the natural nesting place for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. It was in one of the dozens of Laganas bars that Henderson and his friends encountered some trouble.

The indictment describes a quick escalation that began after Henderson and his friend took a selfie with a female employee of the bar. The bar at the time, according to the indictment, was hosting parties for mainly Serbian tourists.

At one point, according to the indictment, one of the Serbian guests complained about the woman, a Serbian, taking selfies with the Americans.

“There are so many Serbs in this bar. Why are you talking to a black?” he is quoted as saying in the indictment. The security camera captured the man throwing a glass toward the woman, prompting Henderson, who was black, to respond. The man slapped Henderson, setting off the events that led to Henderson’s death.

The indictment said the defendants attacked with “murderous intent,” continuing to beat Henderson even after he had fallen to the ground.

“The 6th defendant kicked him with his right foot in the back and the neck with the victim falling in the street and remaining immobile after having lost consciousness,” according to the indictment. “Subsequently the 6th kicked him again but this time with his right foot in the head, the 1st leaned over him and hit him repeatedly in the head with brass knuckles, the 7th kicked him with his left foot twice in the head, the 8th kicked him 8 times in the head and the 9th defendant kicked him with his right foot twice in the head while the unknown assailant kicked him with his right foot twice in the head.”

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The trial began Sept. 21. The Hendersons are represented in Greece by a team of three lawyers, led by Andreas Patsis from Athens.

“Fourteen months … we’ve been waiting awhile for this trial,” Phil Henderson said in an interview with Greek Antenna TV. “And it’s something we do every day: Go ‘why?’”

Petrakis is a special correspondent.


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