Sharon Hill, PA – Prosecutors announced on Monday that investigators believed with “near certainty” that an eight-year-old girl killed during an exchange of gunfire outside a football game in August was killed by a police officer.
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.
Investigators said a group of young men got into an argument about a block away from the game and began shooting at each other, WCAU reported.
The gunfire erupted in the street just as spectators were leaving the stadium after the game.
Five people were shot, including eight-year-old Fanta Bility, WCAU 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.
Prosecutors said that a car turned onto Coates Street directly in front of the officers as the shooting began.
The officers returned fire, WCAU reported.
Three suspects were detained at the scene but ultimately, none of them were charged.
“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.
Stollsteimer announced that investigators had concluded with “near certainty” that four of the five people who were shot outside the stadium – including eight-year-old Fanta – were fired by the Sharon Hill police officers, WCAU reported.
The little girl later died from her wounds.
The district attorney said his office was waiting on the final forensic reports, WCAU reported.
“My office’s Special Investigations Unit is conducting a review of the legality of the officer’s discharge of weapons,” Stollsteimer explained.
All three Sharon Hill officers were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation as is protocol for all officer-involved shootings, WCAU reported.
The district attorney announced that the community leadership had requested a special prosecutor to investigate the incident and the former Philadelphia district attorney had been appointed.
“Sharon Hill Borough has engaged Kelley B. Hodge of Fox, Rothschild LLP to conduct an administrative review of the Sharon Hill Police Department policies and procedures related to police use of deadly force,” Stollsteimer wrote. “To aid the investigation of the officers’ use of deadly force, I have petitioned our President Judge to impanel an investigative grand jury.”
The district attorney said he would file charges against the officers if the grand jury voted to do so, WCAU reported.
“If the investigative grand jury believes the evidence presented by the prosecution warrants the filing of criminal charges against an individual or individuals, an investigative grand jury presentment will be issued,” he said in his statement. “It’s important to note that, under Pennsylvania law, grand jury evidence and testimony is protected by secrecy in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Stollsteimer said there wouldn’t be anymore updates on the case until after the grand jury had made its charging decision, WCAU reported.
“I understand the community’s desire for closure but ask instead for continued patience as we work to provide justice and accountability for the all the victims of this tragedy,” the district attorney said in his statement.
Sharon Hill is a bedroom community of less than 6,000 residents located in the Philadelphia suburbs, WCAU reported.