Three Sharon Hill police officers each face a slew of charges in connection with the death of an 8-year-old girl who was shot by police at a high school football game over the summer.
A grand jury found the officers collectively fired their guns more than two dozen times, injuring four people and leaving 8-year-old Fanta Bility dead.
Sharon Hill police officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney are each charged with 12 counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in connection to Bility's death as well as the wounding of three others, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said on Tuesday.
"These officers made a split-second decision to return fire. We trust them to get that decision right and they got it horribly wrong," Stollsteimer said.
The Officers Collectively Fired a Total of 25 Shots
The incident took place after the Academy Park-Pennsbury football game on Aug. 27. According to witnesses, 18-year-old Hasein Strand and 16-year-old Angelo "AJ" Ford got into a verbal fight before firing shots at each other.
The three officers were at the game helping people exit at the time when they heard the shots. In response to the gunshots, the three officers discharged their weapons at a vehicle traveling on the street between the officers and the football stadium and spectators leaving the game.
The officers' shots struck four people as they were leaving, including Bility, whose injuries were fatal, her sister and two others. Shots from the officers struck a car driven by two girls going to the football game and the vehicle had no involvement in the original altercation between Ford and Strand, according to the complaints.
Investigators recovered a total of 25 9mm cartridge casings from the area where the officers discharged their weapons, with ballistic evidence matching them to the officers' service weapons. "We have now concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that it was, in fact, shots from the officers that struck and killed Fanta Bility and injured three others," the statement from the district attorney's office read.
The bail has been set at $500,000, unsecured, for each defendant and a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Jan, 27, 2022, in the Springfield District Court.
Murder Charges Withdrawn Against Ford and Strand
In November, Stollsteimer announced that Ford and Strand faced first-degree murder charges in connection to the shooting. However, the charges were later withdrawn against the two teenagers responsible for the shooting. "We have withdrawn murder charges against the two juveniles who started the series of tragic events that evening," Stollsteimer announced on Tuesday.
Strand pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm for his role in the August 27 events. Strand will serve a prison term of 32 to 64 months and will remain under court supervision until 2030, per the terms of his plea, according to the release from the district attorney's office. Ford still faces attempted murder, aggravated assault and gun possession charges.