Bakari Henderson’s father Thursday shared a simple message in a Greek courtroom while describing the loss of his 22-year-old son, who was beaten to death last year in the resort town of Laganas.
“We would hope and pray that no other family go through this,” Phil Henderson, his hands clasped behind his back, told a court panel.
Behind Henderson in the Patras courtroom sat the six defendants charged with first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence. Three other defendants face lesser charges.
“Our life has changed,” Phil Henderson said. “Bakari was a beautiful young man with a bright, bright future.”
Bakari Henderson, of Austin, Texas, died in July 2017 on the island of Zakynthos. He was fatally beaten on the street after an altercation with a group of men in a bar in Laganas.
Security camera footage shows Henderson being drawn into a fight then fleeing down a street before being beaten and kicked by the mob. 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.
Only a few months after graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in business, Henderson was in Greece with friends working on a photo shoot for a planned clothing line.
Most of the first day of testimony in the trial, which began last week, centered on determining the sequence of events leading to Henderson’s death.
The indictment describes a quick escalation that began after Henderson and a friend took a selfie with a female employee of the bar. At one point, according to the indictment, one of the guests, a Serbian tourist, complained about the woman, also a Serbian, taking photographs 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.
One witness, a friend of Henderson’s, testified Thursday that the friends had chosen the bar purely by chance.
“It’s the first bar on the strip you see. There were people in there and they looked fun,” the witness, who can’t be identified under European privacy laws, told the court.
In the course of the evening, the three friends were challenged by two men apparently angry at them for placing their drinks on their table. The men weren’t speaking English.
The friends tried to placate the men, Henderson’s friend testified. Bakari “was one of the best people I knew at defusing situations,” the witness testified. He said that the fact the friends had been drinking “would not be an excuse for anything that followed that night.”
Henderson’s parents are in Greece for the trial and on Monday they traveled to Zakynthos to see where their son died.
Henderson’s mother, Jill Henderson, said in an interview Thursday that seeing where he died was “definitely something we needed to do to put all this in perspective.”
“It was heartbreaking to see the distance Bakari had run to get anyway from them,” she said.
Petrakis is a special correspondent.