After Several Delays, Retrial Has Begun for Men Who Killed Bakari Henderson During a Graduation Trip to Greece

The long-awaited retrial, ordered by a Greek prosecutor in 2018, will once again seek to secure homicide convictions for the men involved in fatally beating a 22-year-old American tourist

Courtesy Henderson Family.

Tuesday is at once solemn and hopeful, as the family of Bakari Henderson and prosecutors representing Greece again seek justice in the 22-year-old Texas native's mob killing.

Bakari, who had recently graduated with a business degree from the University of Arizona, was visiting the Greek island of Zakynthos in July of 2017 with college buddies when a beautiful day of cliff-diving and sightseeing took a horrific turn.

At a bar that night, a white waitress took a selfie with Bakari, angering a Serbian man at a nearby table who questioned why she'd take a photo with a "Black guy" when "there are so many Serbs in the bar," according to witness testimony. The man then hit Bakari, who briefly fought back before fleeing. Quickly, a group of white men rallied around the aggressor, chasing Bakari into the street and fatally beating him.

"He didn't really have a mean bone in him. He never would get into altercations or fights unprovoked," says Chris Vineyard, a friend of Bakari's since sixth grade. "He had such a good temperament, so calm."

The deadly attack was caught on surveillance video, which has become the key piece of evidence for prosecutors aiming to put the men behind bars for murder. An initial trial for his attackers failed to secure intentional homicide convictions in 2018 — appalled by the outcome, the prosecutor immediately ordered a retrial in the case, a move that would not be legal under U.S. double jeopardy laws.

Phil and Jill Henderson
Phil and Jill Henderson outside court in Greece during the initial trial. Giannis Androutsopoulos/AP/Shutterstock

The retrial was initially scheduled to begin in early 2020 before being pushed to February 2022. Already this year, the trial has been bumped multiple times due to witness scheduling conflicts and a juror's illness, eventually finding its place on Tuesday's court schedule.

On Friday evening, in preparation for the retrial, Greece residents rallied in support of Bakari at a town square in Athens.

Flyers posted around town by the event's organizers read, "We stand united against racism in all its forms, and we stand in solidarity with Bakari's family in these unbelievably painful times. We support them in their demand for justice for their son. Join us as we light candles to honour Bakari and all Black lives cruelly lost to racism."

The Hendersons tell PEOPLE they are "grateful" for their new friends in Greece who have worked hard to raise awareness of Bakari's case when they are home in the States.

Mural of Bakari Henderson painted in purple, his favorite color. Courtesy Henderson Family

A Lasting Impression

In his short life, Bakari made a big impression among family and friends. "He's always been very inquisitive, very personable, but also outgoing," says his mother, Jill Henderson. "He would always have big dreams and big ideas."

"He was just such a loyal, good friend. Had all the attributes you look for," Vineyard says. "You're ever in trouble, he would drop what he was doing to come help you. ... No matter what it was, he just always had your back."

In death, Bakari's kindness and ambition went global, amplified by a few prominent allies determined to keep his name on people's mouths.

One of those advocates is CBS Mornings co-host Gayle King, who conducted the first TV interview with Bakari's parents after his death. Since meeting them, she has worn a purple bracelet on her wrist every day — in photo shoots, on red carpets and during her daily newscasts — and she tells PEOPLE she intends to keep wearing it until the Hendersons get justice in the case.

gayle king
Gayle King wearing a bracelet honoring Bakari Henderson on a red carpet in L.A. Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

"He's the type of person that you would want to be your child," King says. "Whether he's Black or he's white, you just like this kid."

King has made it a personal mission to keep Bakari's name in the national conversation so that the Hendersons aren't left to fight for justice alone.

In February, Vice President Kamala Harris also used her platform to raise Bakari's case in a meeting with Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, PEOPLE confirmed.

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Bakari Henderson
The Hendersons at a Bakari Foundation event. The Henderson Family

A Young Man's Legacy

While the Hendersons want to ensure Bakari's death isn't forgotten, they too are honoring his life. In 2018 they started an LLC for Bakari's apparel line, Bakari Luxury Sportswear, which sells men's and women's clothing.

A portion of the proceeds from Bakari Luxury Sportswear goes to the Bakari Foundation, a nonprofit the Hendersons established in his name that offers international retreats to grief-stricken families to help them heal. "We just wanted the platform to make sure that siblings are included," Jill explains, "because a lot of times siblings are left out when you're talking of the grieving process."

The Bakari Foundation also partnered with a Texas high school last fall to teach youth finance and entrepreneurship skills.

As they await the results of the retrial, Phil and Jill hold dear their final conversation with their son. "Bakari FaceTimed us very early in the morning because he wanted to be the first one to wish his dad a happy birthday," Jill says. He told them Greece had been amazing so far. "He was joyful, excited, his usual, upbeat self."

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