A year after Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old Texan, was beaten to death on the Greek island of Zakynthos by a gang after a dispute in a bar, his family is anxious there won’t be justice with a trial to begin in September but at least two suspects having earlier fled.
Eight defendants, most of them Serbian, were to face the court but European privacy laws are hiding their identities and with the family of Henderson, an African-American, saying he was targeted because of his race.
“I hate to assume,” Jill Henderson told USA TODAY, “but it felt like it started as anti-American and then escalated into a hate crime because he was African-American,” and drew the wrath of the Serbians after a woman wanted to have her photo taken with him.
Zakynthos is notorious for runaway violence, drunkenness and hooliganism, especially by Serbian and British tourists.
Reports previously said that Henderson, a recent University of Arizona graduate who was in Greece as part a plan to use photo shoots for a new line of casual clothing, got into a fight in the bar with the Serbians over the photo.
A man approached the woman and said, “There are so many Serbs in this bar. Why are you talking to a black guy,” according to the indictment. It said the man then threw a glass at a table in front of the Serbian woman.
When Henderson spoke, the man slapped him. Henderson, according to the indictment, then punched the man and hit him with a beer bottle.
While exiting the bar, Henderson called out to the man and a group of the man’s friends: “Come here, come,” the indictment said. The group reacted by throwing objects at him, following him and hitting him 33 times, including kicks and punches to his head, neck and torso, according to the indictment.
One attacker, a 34-year-old male, hit Henderson with brass knuckles, according to the indictment and security camera videos shown on Greek TV showed him being chased down a sidewalk before being tackled by one man who threw him into a parked car before the pursuing gang beat and stomped him, causing fatal head injuries.
Henderson’s family plans to travel to the western Greek city of Patras for the trial in September. The jury will be comprised of three judges and four citizens. The defendants face charges of first-degree murder, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Andreas Patsis, a Greek lawyer retained by the Henderson family, said the trial should reveal the motive behind the killing.
“There are already hints of strong anti-Americanism sentiment among the Serbians involved,” Patsis told USA TODAY. “Despite how there was no provocation, the Serbs attacked Bakari and focused only on him, who was an African-American.”
Thanasis Tartis, a lawyer representing the defendant accused of using brass knuckles, said his client admits to punching Henderson three or four times but not hard enough to kill him.
“The indictment accepts that my client was using his left arm, his weak arm, to hit the young man, because his right arm was broken in a cast,” Tartis said. “So my client couldn’t have had enough strength with his weak arm to cause life-threatening injuries.”