LONG BEACH, Calif. — After getting her nose bloodied in a fight with another girl near their Southern California elementary school, 11-year-old Joanna Ramos told her mother on the way home she felt sick. Hours later, she was dead.
"My daughter started complaining, saying she doesn't feel good, let's go home, so we went to home and I changed her clothes, and she go to sleep, that's the only thing that I know," Joanna's mother, Cecilia Villanueva told KNBC-TV. "We took her to the hospital but it was too late. She was in a coma."
Ramos died at a Long Beach hospital at 9 p.m. Friday, about six hours after the fight in an alley, police said Saturday. Authorities have not released the girl's name but Villanueva told KNBC the girl who died was her daughter, Joanna.
"I want to know what happened," she said through tears.
Police spokeswoman Nancy Pratt stressed the unusual nature of the tragedy, urging caution about linking the fight to the girl's death until a coroner's report is released. Police, who have interviewed the other girl involved in the fight, were investigating and said that no arrests are immediately planned.
"I think it's safe to say this is definitely an isolated incident," Pratt said. "I personally don't hear of 11-year-old fights like this especially girls. I can't say they never happen but I think everyone was completely caught off-guard by this event."
The after school fight near Willard Elementary didn't appear to be especially serious or violent, no weapons were used and neither girl was knocked to the ground, police said. Police could not say what prompted the fight but friends had their suspicions.
"They were fighting over a boy," said Stephanie Guadalupe, a friend of Joanna. "I told the teacher and she said she would talk to all the girls on Monday."
The Long Beach Press Telegram reported the fight was pre-planned. Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser told the newspaper there was no indication that adults at the school, attended by about 800 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, were aware of the fight or notified about beforehand.
The students involved in the altercation left an after-school program and went to an alley near the school to fight. Some students said bullying had been a problem at the school but Deputy Chief Robert Luna could not confirm if this was an issue in this incident.
"They took off their backpacks, and they put their hair in a bun, and then that's when they said `go' and that's when they started hitting each other," Joanna's friend and classmate Maggie Martinez, who watched the fight, told KNBC.
Martinez and other witnesses said Joanna's nose was bleeding after the fight. Joanna's mother told the station she picked up Joanna after the school called her.
The girl was hospitalized and had emergency surgery but died about six hours after.
"There are times when words do not convey the sense of sadness we feel," Mayor Bob Foster said at a press conference. "This is one of those times."