3 police officers were charged in the killing of 8-year-old Fanta Bility in a Philadelphia suburb

·3 min read
Sharon Hill Pennsylvania football field, site of Fanta Bility killing
A stock image of the football field in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, where an altercation led to the death of Fanta Bility, and eight-year-old girl.Google Maps
  • Three police officers are facing charges related to a shooting outside of a high school football team that killed an 8-year-old.

  • Two teenagers who are accused of shooting at each other also face charges.

  • The hearing for the officers is scheduled for January 27.

Three police officers with the Sharon Hill Police Department were charged with manslaughter in connection to the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility and the injury of several others in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, according to a press release from the district attorney in Delaware County.

Officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney were charged with 12 counts each, according to the press release. According to The Associated Press, those charges include 10 counts of reckless endangerment, one count of voluntary manslaughter, and another count of involuntary manslaughter.

District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced the charges Tuesday following a grand jury indictment, which recommended that the officers' be charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment.

Stollsteimer's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Two teens, Angelo "AJ" Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18, are accused of shooting at each other outside of a football game on August 27, 2021, Insider previously reported.

Nearby officers responded with gunfire, which struck a vehicle.

Stollsteimer said in September that there was a "high probability" that it was the "responsive" police gunfire that killed Fanta Bility and injured three others. However, in November, Stollsteimer decided to charge Ford and Strand with felony murder related to the shooting.

Guyora Binder, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, previously told Insider's Charles Davis that the "felony murder" charge against the teens would be hard to prove.

Per the grand jury's recommendation, the charges of felony murder against the teens were dropped, though they face additional charges. Ford faces charges related to attempting to kill Strand and Strand pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm respectively.

"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," Stollsteimer said in a Tuesday news release.

The officers' attorneys — Raymond Driscoll, Steven Patton, and Charles Gibbs — told The New York Times that the officers "ran to the sound of gunshots and risked their own lives to protect that community." The attorneys did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The attorneys also said that Smith, Dolan, and Devaney "are innocent and remain heartbroken because of this senseless violence."

The three officers have a hearing scheduled for January 27.

Bruce Castor, attorney for Fanta Bility's family told The New York Times that convicting the officers would be "tough" but "winnable."

"They are very, very pleased," Castor said of Bility's family, according to local outlet WPVI. "The police, clearly by everybody's account, thought they had the right to shoot the car. They were wrong and they were dramatically wrong."

"This is a sad day for our officers, who face criminal charges for trying to do their jobs and keeping the community safe," Joseph Fitzgerald, president of Delaware County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27 said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The FOP continues to support these fine officers and will provide a vigorous defense against these allegations."

The Sharon Hill Police Department and Bruce Castor, attorney for Bility's family, did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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