Sharon Hill, PA – Prosecutors have charged two teenagers with the death of an eight-year-old girl who was accidentally shot by police when 16-year-old Angelo “AJ” Ford and 18-year-old Hasein Strand engaged in a gunfight outside a high school football game.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said that the incident occurred after Ford and Strand got into an argument outside the football stadium at Academy Park High School on Aug. 27, WPVI reported.
Stollsteimer said Ford and Strand “exchanged multiple gunshots with each other” as the game was letting out and one person was shot in the crossfire.
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, and the officers shot at the vehicle, WCAU reported.
That vehicle did not contain the shooters, but did contain eight-year-old Fanta Bility, who was fatally shot by police.
Five people in all were shot, including Fanta Bility.
Investigators quickly determined with “near certainty” that four of the five people who were struck by bullets outside the stadium were shot by the Sharon Hill police officers, WCAU reported.
Three suspects were detained at the scene but 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,” the district attorney said in a written statement released on Sept. 27.
On Wednesday, Stollsteimer announced 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.
Former longtime Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, who is representing the little girl’s family, said he had doubts about the success of charging the boys, WPVI reported.
“The DA is gonna have a tough time in a transferred intent case charging these fellas with first-degree murder,” said Castor. “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.”
Stollsteimer said prosecutors would bring evidence before an investigative grand jury on Nov. 18 to “review the entire case, so that it may be determined whether the police officers’ use of deadly force was justified,” WPVI reported.
The grand jury will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against any of the officers involved.
Ford will be transferred to the George W. Hill Correctional Facility after his arraignment and held without bond, WPVI reported.
Authorities are still searching for Strand.