Phil and Jill Henderson raised their son Bakari to dream big, have goals and to embrace his adventurous streak and love of world travel.
Bakari died July 7 after he was attacked outside a nightclub on the Greek island of Zakynthos. His parents take comfort knowing their son was doing what he loved the day he died, but are haunted by what happened to him and wonder if his attackers will be brought to justice.
Bakari, the second of three children to Phil and Jill, graduated from the University of Arizona in May with a degree in business finance. In an exclusive interview with Tony Plohetski from KVUE News and the Austin American-Statesman, his parents said he had a dream of launching his own line of athletic wear.
"I told him to think about it, make sure he had a Plan B, and Bakari, with his confidence, he knew what he wanted to do," Phil said.
Bakari was in Greece for a photoshoot to show off his designs. On the day he died, he sent his parents a video of himself bouncing a ball on the beach and called his father to wish him a happy birthday.
“He made sure he was the first to contact me, and told me happy birthday,” Phil said. “And we were just laughing and having a good time. And then he talked to mom. He was just excited, and we could hear it in his voice that he was excited.”
Early the following morning, Phil and Jill received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Greece saying Bakari was dead.
“She started trying to explain things, and I think we may have been on the phone probably 30 minutes or so just going over the situation, and what was going on and what actually happened,” Phil said.
Within hours, the murder of an American tourist in Greece began making news around the world. Days later came the release of video footage showing Bakari trying to outrun a group of men before they are seen catching up and attacking him. Within 20 seconds, the group is seen running away as Henderson lay in the street.
“Watching the video was tough. I was upset, very upset,” Phil said.
“I just don't understand what kind of background you have to have to do that kind of brutal act,” Jill said.
The Hendersons don't know exactly what led up to the attack. Greek media has released video showing a man identified as Bakari taking a selfie with a woman. They think that may have sparked what happened to their son.
Authorities have arrested and charged nine men, two of whom have been released on bond able to return to their home in Serbia.
“Somebody was able to rally a whole group of people so a mob of people to murder someone,” Jill said.
Now, four months later, the Hendersons are on a journey for justice from the other side of the world. They've been studying up on the Greek judicial system, which has what some consider lax penalties. There, prisoners are sometimes allowed to go home on the weekends or holidays.
"We are not happy with the way their system is set up, but we are holding on to hope, and with our faith, that justice will be served,” Phil said.
They've dedicated themselves to the cause and have hired lawyers in both the U.S. and Greece to guide them, and getting strength from remembering everything their son left behind -- in a life cut way too short.
“He was a joy. Very motivational. Very encouraging. Liked to push his friends, push his family. Just to be all that you could be, and just to live life to the fullest,” Jill said.
Greek courts have not set a trial date for the men charged in the attack on Henderson, but his parents say they plan to travel to Greece when it does happen and not leave until it's over.
Coming up Friday on KVUE Nightbeat, Tony Plohetski will be talking to an expert about Greek law, and the chances of Bakari Henderson's parents seeing justice.