Girl who died after school fight was reportedly kneed in forehead
The 10-year-old girl who died after a fight with another girl Friday near their elementary school suffered a blow the forehead, a classmate who witnessed the incident reportedly said.
Law enforcement sources have said at least a half-dozen classmates watched the fight, which lasted only a minute; but hours later, Joanna Ramos died of blunt-force trauma.
The sources said the fight was over a boy and that they are investigating whether the girls were encouraged to fight by some of their school friends.
One of the classmates who watched the fight told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that the other girl grabbed Ramos by her hair and slammed her knee into Ramos' forehead. Ramos began to bleed from the nose and lip, the classmate told the paper.
Ramos felt ill after the fight and died hours later at a local hospital. The coroner's office labeled her death a homicide but no arrests have been made.
Officials with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said no case has been officially brought to them and that the police investigation is ongoing. Authorities have refused to discuss the nature of the trauma the girl suffered or what criminal charges, if any, could be faced by the other girl in the fight.
Long Beach police called the case highly unusual and delicate, given the ages of the victim and the possible suspect, and the seemingly benign origin of the fight. Officials said they had no idea what the outcome of their investigation might be, or whether criminal charges are warranted.
Law enforcement sources said officers will interview students, teachers and parents, and will look at Ramos' medical history to determine if the fight might have aggravated an existing condition.
Ramos' mother, Cecilia Villanueva, 41, said Monday that she was desperate to find out what happened in the alleyway off Anaheim Street where the fight occurred. Investigators, she said, have ordered classmates who witnessed the fight not to talk to her or anyone else, an apparent effort to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
"All I know is just rumors," Villanueva said in Spanish at the family's duplex seven blocks from Willard Elementary School, where Joanna was a fifth-grade student. "We keep hearing different things. We heard she was bleeding from the nose after the fight, that she was hit multiple times in the head by this other girl. We just don't know what happened. The only one who could have told me what happened is gone."
"It's killing me," she added later.
Joanna Ramos' family had moved to Long Beach from Hawaiian Gardens in December 2010. She was a new face in a working-class community a mile from the tonier shoreline neighborhoods. There were suggestions that she had been bullied on occasion, but she was a happy child for the most part — "she didn’t like fighting," Villanueva said.
She liked to sing and hoped one day to be as famous as Selena, the late Tejano music star, family members said. She enjoyed watching "Glee" and telenovelas, particularly "Atrevete a Sonar" -- "Dare to Dream." She would have turned 11 on March 12 and had plans to visit Knott's Berry Farm with a cousin, a friend and her two older sisters.
-- Ruben Vives in Long Beach and Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles
Photo: Stephanie Soltero, 10, a classmate of Willard Elementary School student Joanna Ramos, sits alone among candles and remembrances placed in memory of Ramos in front of the Long Beach school. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times