Tourists take pictures in front of the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb with the parliament building seen in the background in Athens, Greece July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
American Bakari Henderson was killed by a group of as many as 15 men because of an argument over a selfie at a bar on a Greek island, police said.
A confrontation began after Henderson, who was vacationing with friends, tried to take a picture with a waitress, and quickly escalated into a fistfight involving other customers and two bar employees, Greek police spokesman Theodore Chronopoulos told The Washington Post. Video surveillance shows that the 22-year-old recent graduate of the University of Arizona was fatally beaten in a span of just 30 seconds
"They kicked and punched him to his body and his head," Chronopoulos said. "His death came from hits in his head."
Nine men have been arrested and charged with intentional homicide, Chronopoulos said.
The fight happened during a bar night devoted to Serbians. Chronopoulos said one of the suspects, a 33-year-old Serbian, got in an argument with the waitress over the selfie. He also hit Henderson, who then smashed a beer bottle on the other customer’s table, Chronopoulos said. Soon, about 10 to 15 men chased Henderson outside the bar and immediately caught him. They left him lying on the ground after beating him.
The police account of what happened early Friday morning at a bar in Laganas, a tourist village on the island of Zakynthos, differs from descriptions by Henderson’s friends, who said he was minding his own business when the suspects started the fight.
Daniel Brown, one of three friends who were with Henderson in Zakynthos, told ABC News that they were minding their own business and speaking to no one when the suspects started the fight. He said they immediately started CPR on Henderson after the suspects left and rushed him to a hospital.
Travis Jenkins, another friend, told ABC News that Henderson was not the type to start or get involved in a fight.
"He was always the one who was the peacemaker," Jenkins said.
John Gramlich, a childhood friend, agreed.
"It’s not in his character at all to be aggressive or instigate anything," he told the Associated Press. "He’s always the guy who is calming people down, really."
Henderson’s friends did not immediately reply to Facebook messages requesting comment.
Jan Richardson, Henderson’s aunt and a spokeswoman for the family, said they have not received any details from investigators about what happened.
"There’d been lots of rumors floating around," she told The Post. "We don’t have any official notice of what happened other than the fact, of course, that he was killed."
Two of the suspects, a 34-year-old bartender from Greece and a 32-year-old security guard who is a British citizen of Serbian origin, were immediately arrested. Six more – Serbian natives ages 18 to 25 – were arrested later after they were identified from surveillance videos and police raided the hotel where they were staying, authorities said. Photos and videos taken from Zakynthos show some of the suspects covering their faces as they were being escorted by police.
A ninth suspect, the 33-year-old Serbian who police say started the fight, was arrested Tuesday, Chronopoulos said.
It’s unclear whether all the suspects know each other, but Chronopoulos said the waitress possibly knows some of the men. He said Henderson’s friends did not get involved in the fight.
Eight of the suspects were scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, but the hearing was moved to Wednesday and Thursday to give their lawyers time to prepare, the Associated Press reported. A judge will decide whether they should be kept in police custody while awaiting trial.
Five of the suspects are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, when they are expected to give an apology, Chronopoulos said. Three others will appear Thursday. The ninth suspect arrested Tuesday is scheduled for a Friday hearing.
Henderson’s friends have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral and for transportation costs to return his body to the United States. More than $45,000 had been raised as of Tuesday afternoon.
"The love for this young man overflows and this loss is unbearable for so many of us," according to the page. "If you knew Bakari you knew he was driven in life and no goal is never set to high for him to achieve. He was just starting his life, so many dreams and aspirations yet to be achieved."
Richardson said family members are expecting to bring the body back to the United States sometime this week.
Henderson, who was from Austin, was in Greece for a photo shoot to launch his new clothing line, his family said in a statement last week. He attended the University of Arizona on a full academic scholarship and graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in business finance and entrepreneurship, as well as a certificate in sports management. He also had internships with the Texas legislature, including the House speaker’s office, his family said.
"As you can imagine, our family is devastated by the recent loss of our beloved son Bakari Jaward Henderson," his family said in the statement, adding later: "Bakari loved spending time with family and friends, traveling, and meeting new people. He was a big thinker and enjoyed coming up with new business ventures. Bakari was an inspiration to all he met. He loved life to the fullest."
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said in a statement that the school is "shocked and saddened" by Henderson’s death.
"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," Robbins said. "It is always a tragedy when a young life ends before it has really yet to begin."
Pavlos Kolokotsas, mayor of Zakynthos, told Kathimerini, an English newspaper in Athens, that the island often attracts alcohol-fueled fights. Zakynthos, the third-largest island in the Ionian Sea, is known for its crystal-clear waters, limestone cliffs and a nightlife that draws young tourists.