Austinite beaten to death on Greek island

Bakari Henderson. (Courtesy: John Gramlich)
Bakari Henderson. (Courtesy: John Gramlich)

ATHENS, Greece (KXAN) — A 22-year-old man from Austin was killed while vacationing on a Greek island Friday morning and two people have been arrested.

Bakari Henderson was allegedly beaten to death by around 10 people at a bar on the island of Zakynthos, in an attack that lasted 30 seconds, according to an Athens-based newspaper.

The Henderson family says their son was in Greece working on a photo shoot to launch a new clothing line, calling him a “big thinker” who enjoyed coming up with new business ventures.

KXAN spoke with one of Henderson’s childhood friends, John Gramlich, who called him a teammate, a traveling buddy, and a best friend.

“I met Bakari in elementary school,” Gralmich recalled. “Immediately once I met him I knew he was going to be one of my best friends. We got along really well, he’s got a really contagious smile, whenever he walks into a room he really fills the room up.”

When Gramlich thinks back on growing up, most memories include Henderson.

“We played basketball together, we traveled to Europe together, we’ve done practically everything together,” he said. But then, Friday afternoon, his phone rang.

“I got a phone call from a friend who saw the article and at first didn’t want to believe it,” Gramlich said, calling Henderson’s brother to confirm. “We were just all in disbelief and shock that that could happen to Bakari.”

Gramlich told KXAN he’s part of a tight-knit group that’s remained close throughout the years. It’s in these hours that these friends are now turning to each other.

Bakari Henderson. (Courtesy: John Gramlich)
Bakari Henderson. (Courtesy: John Gramlich)

“We’ve just been trying to share really positive memories of Bakari because there’s so many. And we’ve even had a couple smiles of all the joy that Bakari’s brought to our lives,” Gramlich said.

Gramlich said when he learned Henderson was going to Greece, “It sounded just like Bakari. You know, traveling the world, living his life and really enjoying [it].”

Henderson graduated from the University of Arizona, where he studied management, in May. He attended Anderson High School and graduated from Hyde Park Baptist High School in 2013. “It is always a tragedy when a young life ends before it has really yet to begin,” the university president said.

Henderson’s family released a statement Friday evening that said in part:

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 and lived it to the fullest. We would like to thank our family, friends and the Austin community for your prayers, love and support.”

Two men are facing murder charges over the bar brawl, the Associated Press is reporting. A 34-year-old Greek man and a 32-year-old British man of Serbian origin have been arrested, while an investigation is underway to identify the others involved.

The AP says the area of the island where the fight happened, Lagana, is known for “rowdy behavior by young foreign tourists.” The U.S. State Department confirms they were notified by Greek police that Henderson died in the early morning hours on the island.

“We are in communication with authorities and providing consular assistance to the deceased citizen’s family,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The island of Zakynthos, famous for its beaches and cliff faces, is located more than 100 miles west of the Greek capital.

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