Sharon Hill, PA – The Delaware County district attorney on Tuesday announced 12 criminal charges, including manslaughter and reckless endangerment, against each of the three Sharon Hill police officers who fired their weapons the night eight-year-old Fanta Bility was killed at a high school football game.
The incident occurred on Aug. 27 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 police officers were positioned opposite the entrance to the stadium that people were leaving through, WTXF reported.
They have since been identified as Sharon Hill Police Officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney, according to WPVI.
Police said Ford fired at least two shots at Strand in the direction of the Sharon Hill police 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 survived her wounds.
Investigators determined that four of the five people who were shot were struck by bullets fired by Sharon Hill 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But Stollsteimer announced on Jan. 18 that his office had withdrawn the murder charges previously filed against Ford and Strand, WPVI reported.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.
Stollsteimer announced the charges against Officers Smith, Dolan, and Devaney at the same press conference.
All three officers were given an unsecured bond set at $500,000, WPVI reported.
“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,” Stollsteimer said.
“No one touched by this incident will ever be the same,” the district attorney continued. “I hope that today’s announcement will help the community begin to heal through the knowledge that all the individuals who fired guns that night are being held accountable for their actions under our laws.”
A preliminary hearing for the officers was scheduled for Jan. 27.
Former longtime Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, who is representing Bility’s family, said from the beginning that he had doubts about the success of charging transferred intent, WPVI reported.
“The DA is gonna have a tough time in a transferred intent case charging these fellas with first-degree murder,” Castor said. “It does not, however, remove the focus from the fact that it was police officers acting recklessly and inappropriately that fired the fatal round that killed Fanta Bility.”