SC 5th grader’s classmates paint violent picture of fight, officials to release autopsy findings

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A South Carolina fifth grader was put in a headlock, punched repeatedly and thrown into a bookshelf according to written statements provided to law enforcement officials by RaNiya Wright’s classmates after a March classroom fight.

‘Bullying did not play a factor’ in death of SC fifth-grader RaNiya Wright. (Source: WIS)

Wright, 10, was separated from the other student and taken to the principal’s office, where she began to complain of dizziness and a headache. Shortly after, staff members carried her to the nurse’s office where she vomited and became unresponsive.

A 911 call was made shortly after she collapsed and within six minutes, first responders arrived on the scene.

On Friday, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said a forensic pathologist determined Wright’s manner of death was natural, succumbing to a brain arteriovenous malformation, which are comprised of a complex tangle of blood vessels. As a result, Stone said no criminal charges will be filed related to her death.

The autopsy revealed no visible signs of trauma, such as cuts, bruises or bumps consistent with a physical altercation. Wright was involved in the fight on Monday, March 25, passed away two days later and her autopsy was conducted Friday, March 29.

According to Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, whether or not evidence of an injury will present itself during an autopsy depends on the severity of the injury itself.

“If you get punched and it breaks your nose, obviously you’re going to see that,” Watts said. “If you get punched and it’s very superficial, there’s no bruising or anything like that—then it’s not going to show up.”

Watts said he can’t speak specifically on the Wright case without seeing the full pathology report, but is eager to read the findings. He highlights the distinction between the manner of death and cause of death and said it’s up to law enforcement to factor in the autopsy findings into the bigger picture of the investigation to determine whether an action contributed to the death.

County coroners use reports provided by pathologists to determine if the death was natural, suicide, homicide, undetermined or accidental. From there, Watts said the actual cause of death can be a wide array of things.

There is limited medical research into the effects of high blood pressure on AVMs and as a result, Stone did not comment on whether Wright’s blood pressure may have been elevated enough as a result of the fight to place her in danger of having a hemorrhage.

Investigators with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said bullying was not a factor in the fight and said it consisted of a “slap fight” that lasted five or ten seconds before a substitute teacher, who had her back turned at the time of the altercation, separated the two girls.

However, written statements given by students in the classroom at the time of the fight paint a violent picture, detailing Wright initially hitting the other student in the back as she made her way up to the teacher’s desk for help. Then, students write, the other student got up, grabbed Wright from behind, placed her in a headlock and began punching her with her other hand.

The school district said the other student involved in the fight has been placed in an alternative learning environment and will not return to Forest Hills Elementary this semester.

The full pathology report is expected to be released as soon as it’s redacted, according to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

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