WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCBD) – Several documents and media have been released by Colleton County Sheriff investigators that include statements from multiple Forest Hills Elementary students that seem to conflict with what investigators said in a news conference Friday.
Those documents include the investigative report, the incident report, a health report, RaNiya Wright’s prior medical records, an interview with one of RaNiya’s school teachers and a P.E. teacher, a timeline of events on March 25th, and the 911 call made on March 25.
Prior to the release of these documents, the Colleton County Sheriff’s, solicitor and coroner’s office held a news conference Friday morning. Solicitor Duffy Stone announced that RaNiya Wright, 10, died from a pre-existing brain condition she had since birth. It’s a rare condition known as Arteriovenous Malformations, or AVM, which caused blood vessels to rupture.
Following that news conference, Ashley Wright, RaNiya’s mother, and her attorney, Margie Pizarro said the sheriff’s office investigation was just the beginning of the unfinished story about what happened to RaNiya.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office report says that statements were taken from students in the classroom on March 25 soon after the fight.
“I went to the classroom and requested all students to take out a piece of paper and advised them to write what they saw and heard related to the juveniles Wright and [redacted],” the report states. A substitute teacher for the class also provided a written statement.
The substitute teacher’s statement is below:
The responding deputy said after reviewing all of the statements, “It was determined that both juvenile Wright and [redacted] had been exchanging words throughout the day. Statements stated that they were also throwing paper back and forth at one another.”
According to the report, Wright walked toward the teacher’s desk where she passed the other student. “It was during this movement that juvenile Wright hit juvenile [redacted] in the back with her hand.” According to a student, the other student then got up and began hitting Wright.
“It was observed by some students that juvenile [redacted] had juvenile Wright in a headlock and was striking her in the head with her fist,” the report states.
The report says the when the substitute teacher heard the girls behind her fighting “she broke them up.” RaNiya was then taken to the principal’s office.
“A short time later juvenile Wright was having medical issues.”
A letter that notified Ashley Wright, Raniya’s mother, states that Raniya was brought to the nurse’s offices “after being in a fight.” The letter says that she was assisted into a chair where she was assessed and there were no physical signs of injury, no open areas, no swelling, no bruising, no redness to the skin. The letter then states that Raniya began to vomit and that’s when the assistant principal notified front office staff to contact a parent. “Student eased to the floor with the assistance of a nurse and assistant principal. Student head checked for bruising, swelling, hematoma, none found.” The letter states she was “alert but mumbling.”
March 25, 2019
Friday, Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland described the fight as a 10-15 second “slap fight.” Solicitor Duffy Stone said the fight did not contribute to Raniya’s death.
“The science is very clear,” Stone said. “The science shows us her death was natural.”
The Colleton County School District described the altercation as a “scuffle.” Superintendent Franklin Foster said that school administrators acted appropriately and followed all protocols during and following the “scuffle.”
The 911 call made to emergency dispatchers has been released. According to officials, a school counselor called dispatch and reported that Wright was unconscious in the nurse’s office.
Records show that the call was made at 1:00 p.m. on March 25 and that EMS arrived at 1:12 p.m.
Here’s the transcription of the 911 call:
Dispatcher: What’s going on there?
School Counselor: We have a student that is unresponsive in the nurse’s office and we are trying to get in contact with the parent but it’s unsuccessful.
Dispatcher: Is she breathing?
School Counselor: Yes, she’s breathing.
Dispatcher: She’s just unconscious?
School Counselor: Yes, right now she is.
Dispatcher: How old is she?
School Counselor: She’s 10 years old.
Dispatcher: How long has she been that way?
School Counselor: On the floor, down the way she is now about 8 to 9 minutes.
Dispatcher: Did she fall when she went unconscious?
School Counselor: She had fallen to the floor, she was in a fight, in a physical altercation and before she went completely out she reported that she was dizzy and we had to carry her to the nurse’s office.
Dispatcher: Is she bleeding anywhere?
School Counselor: No, she isn’t bleeding.
Dispatcher: And you said she went unconscious during the fight?
School Counselor: No, after once she got in the nurse’s office she vomited and now she’s unresponsive.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office also released two redacted audio interviews they conducted with one of RaNiya’s school teachers and a P.E. teacher who taught both RaNiya and the other student. During an interview, RaNiya’s school teacher said RaNiya never told her she was being bullied.
“I never heard her say the word bullying to me, she said. She never mentioned anyone was bothering her.”
The name of this teacher was not provided by investigators, but she said she and RaN+iya were close.
“I feel like she would have told me if something was going on, I mean she told me everything,” the teacher stated.
They were so close that when RaNiya was in the hospital, “Her mom actually called me that night and asked if I would come to the hospital the next day,” so she said she did. “I asked her had the doctor told her anything and she said the doctor had just come in and the doctor told her that RaNiya had a brain aneurysm and the brain aneurysm burst that day,” the teacher stated. “She told me that she felt really bad because RaNiya had been complaining about headaches and she had not done anything about it.”
During the interview, the teacher was asked if Raniya ever complained about having a headache to her.
“I hate to say, I ignored it,” the teacher said. “Every day it was something like, ‘oh my back hurts,’ I feel like it was something she would hear them [grandparents] say. Every day was something different, so I’m sure she probably did, but it wasn’t like an ongoing, not every day she had a headache. Some days she would say “I don’t feel well.”
When asked if Raniya and the other girl involved in the slap fight ever had problems, she said Raniya told her one week prior to the incident that a girl was not being nice to her
“She said when I speak to her, she doesn’t speak back, it was just girl drama like that,” the teacher said.
The day of the incident, Raniya’s P.E. teacher said the two girls exchanged negative words.
“When I got finished taking roll, I noticed the two students were talking to each other but I realized it wasn’t in a friendly manner,” he said.
He said he addressed the two girls, separated them in line, and from there he said they were fine. He believed they would never fight.
“Nothing from the time that I’ve had them to where I would think they would fight,” he said.
Investigators at the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Interviewed more than a dozen students who witnessed the altercation—these statements are included in the investigative report and some are referenced in the incident report.
According to investigators, a student observed RaNiya and the other student exchanging words and throwing paper back and forth through the day leading up to the classroom fight.
In the statements from students, both RaNiya Wright and the other student were trash talking one another in the bathroom and at P.E.
One student says, “They have been arguing all morning”
Another student says, “I did also see them insulting each other in P.E.”.
The incident report says that students saw the other student had RaNiya in a headlock and was striking her in the head with her fist. In the student statements, they say that RaNiya’s head hit an object in the classroom.
One student says he/she “saw the other student push RaNiya to the shelf.”
Another student statement says that “RaNiya hit her head on the wooden cabinets.”
Other students reference a gray box and silver picture falling on RaNiya’s head.
The investigative report included these statements from students, but the incident report makes no mention of an inanimate object hitting RaNiya on her head in the classroom.
Officials say that there was not bullying.
However, according to a student statement, “RaNiya punched the other student first because she got tired of her picking on her.”
The other student involved in the altercation also provided a statement to investigators indicating that RaNiya Wright threw the first punch. She stated “RaNiya pushed her in the classroom, which caused her to trip on the carpet. Students gave her a hard time about this during lunch, saying she lost. After lunch, RaNiya hit her in the back at least twice.”
Raniya Wright’s Medical Records:
RaNiya’s medical records show that she went to the doctor 13 days prior to the school incident complaining of having a headache. Medical records show that RaNiya went to the doctor more than a dozen times since 2014 after complaints of headaches and dizziness.
From the medical records provided, a diagnosis of AVM was never recorded.