Bakari Henderson, 22, a recent University of Arizona graduate, was at a bar on the Greek island of Zakynthos when a fight broke out with another group of people around 3 a.m. local time on Friday, according to police. At least eight people have been arrested in connection with his assassination, according to local police.
The fight escalated into a brawl and Henderson was beaten to death in the street, police said.
His friend Travis Jenkins said that was uncharacteristic of Henderson.
“Bakari was not the type to act aggressively like that,” Jenkins told ABC News. “He was always the one who was a peacemaker.”
The coroner told ABC News that Henderson suffered serious head injuries during the incident. All blows were to the head and it appeared there were no defensive injuries to Henderson’s body, the coroner added.
Henderson’s body will be flown to Athens and then to the United States in two days. A toxicology report will be published in a few weeks.
Pavlos Kolokotsas, the mayor of Zakynthos, told ABC News that both groups involved had been drinking heavily.
The investigation into the incident and Henderson’s death is ongoing. An autopsy was performed on Henderson and results are expected early this week.
Police told ABC News that a British citizen of Serbian origin, temporarily employed in Greece as a bouncer, and a Greek national, who works at the Zakynthos bar, were arrested on Friday and named as suspects in the fatal shootings. . Six Serbian tourists were also arrested after being identified in surveillance footage as taking part in the fight, police said.
All eight people arrested so far appeared in court Saturday evening and pleaded not guilty, according to police.
The lawyer for one of the eight suspects said his client had no criminal record. He said he caused bodily harm but did not have murderous intent and did not hit Henderson in the head. He said his client was “devastated, literally devastated”.
“He did not hit (the victim) in the head and death was caused by head trauma,” he said. “I am convinced that it will be proven that it was not he who caused the death of the unfortunate American.”
Friends and family cope with painful loss
Sam Hindsman, another friend of Henderson’s, also told ABC News that the incident was difficult to deal with, given what he knew of Henderson’s personality.
“She’s such a fun person and so easy to get along with,” Hindsman told ABC News of Henderson. “So many people loved him, so it was hard to believe.”
Friends set up a GoFundMe page to bring Henderson’s body home and pay for his funeral. The page, launched on Saturday, had already raised nearly $20,000 by Sunday morning.
A description of Henderson on the page says he was “just starting his life” and had “so many dreams and aspirations.”
Henderson’s family told ABC affiliate KVUE in Austin that a memorial service was planned.
The statement noted that Henderson was in Greece working on a photo shoot to launch his new clothing line when he died.
“Bakari loved spending time with family and friends, traveling and meeting new people,” the family said in their statement. “He was a big thinker and loved starting new businesses. Bakari was an inspiration to everyone he met.”
The University of Arizona issued a statement Friday, upon the announcement of Henderson’s “untimely death.”
“All of us at the University of Arizona are shocked and saddened by the loss of our recent graduate, Bakari Henderson,” university President Robert Robbins said in the release. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his friends and family. I can only imagine the deep sense of loss they must feel following his untimely death. It is always a tragedy when a young life ends before it has even really started.”
A U.S. State Department official told ABC News that Zakynthos police informed the U.S. Embassy of the death of a U.S. citizen Friday morning.
“We are in communication with the authorities and providing consular assistance to the family of the deceased citizen,” the official said in a statement on Saturday. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends, and out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment.”
ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.