Three Sharon Hill police officers have been charged with the death of 8-year-old girl Fanta Bility, who was shot and killed outside a suburban Philadelphia high school football game in Sharon Hill. A grand jury determined that officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney fired 25 shots, injuring three and killing Bility. Each was charged with 12 counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
According to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, the incident, which took place on Aug 27, 2021, at the Academy Park-Pennsbury football game, began when witnesses told police two teenagers had a verbal altercation that turned into a gunfight. As officers were helping bystanders exit the football stadium when they heard gunfire. The officers allegedly fired their weapons in the direction of the stadium, shooting four people, killing Fanta Bility.
“These officers made a split-second decision to return fire. We trust them to get that decision right and they got it horribly wrong,” said Stollsteimer. “From the moment the call came in on August 27, my team of investigators and prosecutors has worked tirelessly to achieve justice for Fanta and the other victims of that tragic night. Today’s charges are a big step forward in that process.”
Initially, Stollsteimer’s office arrested Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, on multiple charges, including first-degree murder, after authorities said Ford and another teen, 18-year-old Hasein Strand were partially responsible for Fanta’s death. But after the grand jury decision, the charges in relation to Bility’s killing were dismissed against Ford and Strand. According to officials, Ford still faces charges in the attempted murder of Strand.
“I fully realize that the tragic death of Fanta and the trauma inflicted on her family, the other victims, and community members involved, has been emotionally draining to all, including the investigators and prosecutors assigned, said Stollsteimer. “No one touched by this incident will ever be the same.”
Bility family attorney Bruce Castor said the family was happy with the grand jury’s decision.
“They are very, very pleased,” said Castor. “The police, clearly by everybody’s account, thought they had the right to shoot the car. They were wrong and they were dramatically wrong.”
Bail was set a $500,000 for each defendant and a preliminary hearing has been set for Jan. 27, 2022.