A student at Ballou High School in Southeast Washington died at a hospital Monday, nearly three weeks after he reported being attacked in a classroom in a dispute over a cellphone, according to D.C. police and his mother.
Authorities are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine whether the death of Joevon Smith-Patterson, 17, is connected to the attack at the school on Jan. 10. At this point, police said, the case has been labeled a death investigation. No arrests have been made.
Smith-Patterson's mother, Rashonda Smith, said the family has hired an attorney, whom she declined to identify, and that she has been advised not to discuss the case. She said Smith-Patterson was in a special-needs program but declined to elaborate.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) told reporters that she can't divulge many details.
"I would be troubled by any child who succumbs to an injury or anything like that," Bowser said. "If one of our students passes away, obviously we are concerned about that student, the student's family and the larger school community."
A police report says that as many as three people struck Smith-Patterson "several times in the face and body" because he would not allow two of them to use his cellphone. Smith-Patterson also told police that "he was sprayed about the body with 'perfume.' "
The report classifies the case as a "simple assault," which typically indicates a misdemeanor. Police did not identify the victim; his mother confirmed his identity.
Police said in the report that the incident occurred about 9 a.m. Jan. 10 but was not reported until the following day at 7:36 p.m. Police did not say if they were called to the school or to the student's home, but a department spokesman said there was no record that the school notified law enforcement.
School officials would not say when they learned about the assault. A spokeswoman declined to comment and referred questions to the police.
In a letter to students, Katreena Shelby, Ballou's interim principal, said "Joevon's death is a devastating loss, and it is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions from our entire school."
Smith-Patterson was not taken to the hospital immediately after the assault but went later and remained there until he died, his mother said. She would not answer questions about her son's medical history.
In addition to Smith-Patterson, two other Ballou students have died this academic year — James Anthony Smith, 17, and MyAngelo Starnes, 16. Both were shot.
Ballou, a school with students largely from low-income backgrounds, has been troubled by other issues. Evidence emerged in November that the school had graduated students who improperly took makeup classes and missed large portions of the academic year. Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves, who was widely liked by students, was removed at the result of the investigation.
Fenit Nirappil and Lauren Lumpkin contributed to this report.