DC police chief outlines ‘complicated investigation’ into death of Ballou HS student

WASHINGTON — D.C.’s police chief called the investigation into the death of Ballou High School student “complicated” and said officers would need to interview students with developmental disabilities as they seek answers.

Joevon Smith-Patterson was assaulted by at least two other students in one of the school’s classrooms on Jan. 10, said Police Chief Peter Newsham.

His family reported the attack to police the next day. The special needs teen died Monday evening at the hospital — almost three weeks after the classroom assault.

“A kid in 12th grade who ends up dying, it raises an eyebrow. Ya know. What the heck happened here? And to have this report of a previous assault, we have to see if the two are associated,” Newsham told WTOP.

Before his death, the teen told police he was hit in the face and body several times because he would not let two other students use his cellphone, according to a police report.

He also told police that he was sprayed with some kind of “perfume.”

Newsham said investigators are reviewing any school security footage and talking to teachers, security guards and other students.

“The other piece to this is we’ll be interviewing some of the young kids that were involved. And some of the kids we’ll be interviewing are developmentally disabled. So there’s a certain criterion we have to use when we speak to kids that have those conditions,” Newsham said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is conducting its own investigation but have not yet found what caused Smith-Patterson’s death.

“When there are unusual circumstances that have led to a death, as with most of our cases, in addition to an autopsy being conducted. There is a separate and independent investigation that happens at the same time,” said Lashon Beamon, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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