Philadelphia, Pa – Three former Sharon Hill Borough police officers pleaded guilty on Thursday to multiple counts of reckless endangerment in connection with the fatal shooting of an eight-year-old girl in 2021.
The former police officers were fired by the Sharon Hill Borough Council just days after the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office announced charges against them in connection with the death of Fanta Bility outside a football game.
On Nov. 10, all three of the former Pennsylvania cops – 26-year-old Sean Dolan, 35-year-old Devon Smith, and 42-year-old Brian Devaney – pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment each in a negotiated plea deal in which the manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter charges against them were dropped, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors said the plea agreements were reached in consultation with the family of the dead little girl who said it was important to end the case so Bility’s loved ones could start to heal.
“The agony we feel constantly re-living the loss of our dear Fanta, who was just eight years old when she was killed by Sharon Hill police officers, is impossible to describe with words,” Bility’s uncle, Abu Bility, told reporters after the plea agreement was announced.
The uncle said Bility’s mother and siblings who witnessed the little girl’s death were still dealing with the trauma, NBC News reported.
“After much prayer and discussion with our family, we determined that it was in our best interest for the district attorney to ensure that the police officers take responsibility for their actions, admit to their reckless conduct endangering many, and killing our Fanta,” he said.
Former Officers Dolan, Smith, and Devaney remained free on a $500,000 unsecured bond pending their sentencings, NBC News reported.
Sentencing is expected to be scheduled in January.
The incident occurred on Aug. 27, 2021 near the entrance of the Academy Park High School football stadium right after a game between that school and Pennsbury High School ended, WTXF reported.
It began with a verbal altercation between 16-year-old Angelo “AJ” Ford and 18-year-old Hasein Strand, WPVI reported.
The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office said that three Sharon Hill Borough police officers were positioned opposite the entrance to the stadium that people were leaving through, WTXF reported.
Police said Ford fired at least two shots at Strand in the direction of officers who were stationed outside the football game that had just ended.
The officers returned fire in the direction of the football field.
Five people were shot during the incident, including eight-year-old Fanta Bility, WPVI reported.
Bility did not survive her wounds.
Investigators determined that four of the five people who were shot were struck by bullets fired by Sharon Hill Borough police officers.
“We have concluded that the gunfire, combined with the movement of the vehicle, precipitated responsive gunfire from the Sharon Hill police officers,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in a written statement released on Sept. 27, 2021.
Prosecutors initially charged Ford and Strand in connection with Bility’s death, with Stollsteimer announcing that he was holding the teenagers who started the gun battle accountable for the murder of the little girl, WPVI reported.
“Under the laws of this commonwealth, my office has determined that [the defendants] should both be held criminally liable for the murder of Fanta Bility, as well as for the wounding of all of the bystanders,” the district attorney said.
But then Stollsteimer announced on Jan. 18 that his office had withdrawn the murder charges previously filed against Ford and Strand, WPVI reported.
Ford is still facing charges for trying to kill Strand, and Strand has already pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for his part in wounding one of the juveniles who was shot, and to illegal possession of a firearm.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Strand will serve between 32 to 64 months in prison, WPVI reported.