L.A. teen's death caused by fall down stairs, not school fight, autopsy report finds

After the death of a 16-year-old girl last month, questions swirled as to the cause: Was it an accident, as Los Angeles County officials initially ruled, or the result of injuries suffered during a school fight that was caught on video?

But the final autopsy report for Shaylee Mejia, released Friday in response to a public records request, determined there was no link between the fight — during which she appeared to slam her head into a wall — and her death from a head injury on March 15. The report instead cited injuries she suffered after falling down some stairs, days after the fight took place.

“The medical records of her hospital admission beginning on March 10, 2024, after her fall down the stairs, document acute traumatic findings," the report said. "There is no evidence to suggest that her traumatic head injuries resulting in her hospitalization ... were due to the physical [altercation] that occurred days prior.”

Read more: A South L.A. teen died after a fight at school. Officials ruled the death an accident. What comes next?

But Luis Carrillo, a civil rights attorney representing Shaylee's mother, took issue with the final autopsy report, especially the determination that the school fight was not a factor in her death. He said the family has decided to conduct an independent autopsy, but those findings were not yet complete as of Friday evening.

He said the family has hired Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who is credited for discovering the link between football and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The detailed autopsy report from the Los Angeles County medical examiner noted that Shaylee had been in a fight on March 5, during which her “head struck a wall," and she subsequently complained of headaches and fainting.

But, according to the report, Shaylee suffered the injuries that ultimately proved fatal while at a party on March 9, when she fell down a flight of stairs.

Shaylee and a friend were on the second floor and "began running down the stairs," the report said. Partway down, Shaylee "tripped and fell down the remainder of the stairs."

Read more: An L.A. teen died. Her mom blames bullying, high school's inaction

Shaylee died of “sequelae of blunt head trauma,” or the result of a prior head injury, days after she was admitted to the hospital, according to the report. The report detailed severe head injuries, including multiple hemorrhages and two fractures.

Paramedics later transported her to a hospital where, despite treatment, she died days later.

Shaylee's mother, Maria Juarez, had initially questioned how the death could be ruled accidental and blamed her daughter's school — Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles — for allowing what she called continued bullying and repeated fights.

Juarez also previously said her daughter had fainted at the party before she was taken to the hospital.

"The coroner’s duty is to determine the cause of death and not to provide 'cover' to the [Los Angeles Unified School District] by exonerating the LAUSD from the brutal beating of Shaylee inside ... Manual Arts High School," Carrillo said in a statement Friday. He also questioned how many steps Shaylee fell down, a detail not included in the final report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.