Officials rule 11-year-old girl died of fentanyl, not fight at school

Jan 10, 2023, 10:32 AM
Carrie Hankins, of Jefferson County Public Health, holds a Fentanyl test strip during an event held at Lakewood Library on August 25, 2022 in Lakewood, Colorado. Jefferson County Public Health hosted the event entitled Fentanyl & Overdose: A Discussion for Jeffco Communities. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

An 11-year-old Tacoma girl who passed away soon after a fight at school died as a result of fentanyl in her system, according to an update from the Pierce County medical examiner.

The girl was involved in an “altercation” on May 20, 2022, with another student at Ford Middle School. Shortly after, she was rushed to the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, where she died several days later.

King County seeing increasing ‘white powder’ fentanyl

Within the next week, deputies said she had a medical emergency and later died.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office told KIRO Newsradio a family member jumped to the conclusion that she died from injuries she received in the fight, leading to community members calling on the school district to demand changes, believing she had been the victim of bullying.

After PCSO’s investigation and a review of a video of the incident, authorities said they didn’t believe the fight is what led to the girl’s death. Follow-up toxicology testing revealed a high level of fentanyl in her body, triggering detectives to open back up the case in November.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Darren Moss said they have conducted a full investigation and found no evidence of fentanyl in her home or at school.

Her official cause of death is “anoxic encephalopathy due to acute fentanyl intoxication,” and the manner of death is unknown.

“We don’t have enough information to say whether it was an accident or whether it was negligent exposure by somebody. We don’t have any suspects in that case, again, it’s not even clear that it’s a criminal investigation at this point,” Moss said.

Moss said the case has since been closed but asked anyone who may know what happened to contact them at (253) 798-7530.

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Officials rule 11-year-old girl died of fentanyl, not fight at school