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Death of Joanna Ramos, Long Beach 5th-grader, declared a homicide

Joanna Ramos, the Long Beach fifth-grader who died just hours after she was involved in a fight with a classmate.
Joanna Ramos, the Long Beach fifth-grader who died just hours after she was involved in a fight with a classmate.
Image via NBC LA

The two girls had planned their after-school fight. When the time came, a few shoves and punches were exchanged, and it was over within a minute. But hours later one of them was dead. And now, Joanna Ramos' death has been declared a homicide by the L.A. County coroner.

The coroner's office was investigating how Joanna could leave the alley near her Long Beach elementary school with a bloody nose and end up dying in an intensive care unit. The circumstances behind it left family, friends and authorities confused and seeking answers.

"I can't say they never happen but I think everyone was completely caught off-guard by this event." Long Beach police spokeswoman Nancy Pratt said Sunday. Previous reports had put Ramos' age at 11, but the coroner's office said she was 10 when she died.

Police, who have interviewed the other girl involved in the fight, were investigating and said over the weekend that no arrests were immediately planned.

Joanna returned to an after-school program after the fight, but her mother was called when she wasn't feeling well.

"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 hospital at 9 p.m. Friday, about six hours after the fight near Willard Elementary, police said. Villanueva told NBC Joanna was her daughter.

"I want to know what happened," she said through tears.

A friend of Joanna's told NBC the two were fighting over a boy.

"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," another classmate told NBC.

Her friends said they tried to stop the fight, but were held back by boys who were watching and wanted it to continue.

"There are times when words do not convey the sense of sadness we feel," Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said at a press conference. "This is one of those times."