3 Officers Charged in Fatal Shooting of 8-Year-Old at High School Football Game
The officers fired their weapons after gunfire broke out between two teens, killing Fanta Bility and injuring three others.
SHARON HILL, Penn. — Three Sharon Hill Police officers have been charged in connection with a shooting at a high school football game last year that killed a young girl and injured three others.
The girl, 8-year-old Fanta Bility, was killed on Aug. 27 when gunfire erupted shortly after the end of a game at Academy Park High School, reports Yahoo.com. Among the injured was Bility’s sister.
Investigators determined that when two teens opened fire on each other, two shots were fired in the direction of the officers, who were monitoring the crowd exiting the stadium. In response, the officers discharged their weapons in the direction of the football field. Investigators recovered 25 9mm cartridge casings from the area where the officers fired, with ballistic evidence matching them to the officers’ service weapons.
“We have now concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that it was, in fact, shots from the officers that struck and killed Fanta Bility and injured three others,” said a statement from the district attorney’s office.
The three officers, identified as Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan, and Devon Smith, have each been charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter, one count of involuntary manslaughter, and 10 counts of reckless endangerment. Bail has been set at $500,000 for each officer and preliminary hearings are scheduled for Jan. 27.
The officers were placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting. The Sharon Hill Borough Council will vote Thursday on whether to fire the officers.
The lawyers for the three officers released a joint statement, admonishing the teens involved in the gunfire and praising the officers.
“This is a terrible tragedy that was caused by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene in which an innocent child lost her life and others were seriously injured,” reads the statement. “These three officers ran to the sound of gunshots and risked their own lives to protect that community. These three good men are innocent, and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence.”
Prosecutors have been criticized for their handling of the case after arguing the two teens should be held criminally responsible for Bility’s death. The two were initially charged with first-degree murder, among other offenses.
Activists and civil rights lawyers chastized Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer over what they called his disparate treatment of the two Black teenagers, ABC News reports.
“What he has done is absolutely shameful,” said Sean Damon, organizing director of Amistad Law Project in Philadelphia. Damon also said Stollsteimer “is offering up these young people … as a distraction and a deflection away from holding the police accountable for what they did.”
On Tuesday, Stollsteimer directed his office to drop the murder charges against the teens.
“While I believe these defendants should be held accountable for starting the series of events that ultimately led to Fanta Bility’s death, developments during the grand jury investigation render it appropriate to withdraw these charges at this time,” he said.
Hasein Strand, 18, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm and aggravated assault for his wounding of a child bystander during the gunfight. Under his plea, prosecutors said Strand will serve a sentence of 32 to 64 months at a state correctional facility and will remain under court supervision until 2030.
The other teen, 16-year-old Angelo Ford, is facing charges for “his attempt to kill Strand,” said prosecutors. A scheduled hearing for Ford was postponed last week due to protests regarding the case.