The death of a 10-year-old girl who suffered blunt force trauma to her head in a fight with a classmate and later died has been ruled a homicide, coroner’s officials said Monday.
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Long Beach police officers responded just before 6 p.m. Friday to a hospital after being notified that Joanna Ramos, who was unconscious and not breathing, had been brought into the emergency room by her family. She was taken in for surgery, placed into intensive care in critical condition, and died just before 9 p.m.
She had no visual signs of trauma to her body, police said.
Joanna, described as a lively girl with dreams of being a star, will be buried in the white ball gown she wore to her sister's quinceañera in November.
"My heart is, you know, I don't know," said Cecilla Villanueva, Joanna' mother. "I just feel so sad. I can't believe I'm in this situation right now."
Joanna would have turned 11 next month. But instead her family is planning her funeral.
"I really did love her, I told her goodbye and I'll see her later," Joanna's sister Vannessa Urbina said, decribing their final farewell at the hospital.
"No one's going to bring back my sister now," she said
Joanna and a fellow student from Willard Elementary School had been in a fight after school in an alley. With seven others looking on, the girls took off their backpacks, put their hair in a bun, said “Go” and started hitting each other.
The fight lasted about one minute. It involved pushing and shoving, no weapons and no one was knocked to the ground, police said.
Once the fight was over, both girls left the area and went their separate ways.
Later, Joanna had a bloody nose and wasn't feeling well so she was taken to the hospital, her family said.
Several classmates of both girls told NBC4 that the girls were fighting over a boy. Joanna's friends said the two simply could not get along.
Family members questioned how a group of students would be able to leave their after-school program and go to a fight without an adult knowing.
That program, which includes 150 students, one director and several support staff, is now part of the investigation.
As grief counselors arrived at the school on Monday, family and friends were in mourning.
A makeshift memorial was set up at the school with flowers and pictures.
"You will always be missed," read one message on the growing memorial. "Something that could have been resolved easyer (sic) ended up in violence."
Friend Crystal Chavez said Joanna was slapped and she had a swolen nose. Crystal said Joanna also had a bloody nose.
The Long Beach Police Department said in a press release on Monday that detectives are in the process of conducting a "very intense and detailed investigation."
Detectives have interviewed the other classmate and onlookers. They were also trying to identify other witnesses and anyone who knows what led to the fight.
No arrests have been made.
Officers will present their findings to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which will review the case and determine if any charges will be filed.
Police said no one has alleged or suggested that Joanna was being bullied.
None of the students interviewed told detectives that school officials were made aware of the impending fight.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Long Beach Police Homicide Detectives Hugo Cortes and Peter Lackovic at (562) 570-7244.