Family supports plea for police officers charged in fatally shooting an 8-year-old girl who was caught in police crossfire leaving a soccer game

Three former Philadelphia-area officers charged with the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl are convicted of misdemeanor after agreeing to a plea bargain.

Fanta Bility was killed while leaving a high school football game with her family in August 2021 after former Sharon Hill officers Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan and Devon Smith shot into a crowd.

Fanta Bility was killed on August 27, 2021 after officers (from left) Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan and Devon Smith shot a car near a crowd. (Photo: File Photos)

The officers were also charged with involuntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, but they pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of reckless endangerment under an agreement approved by the girl’s family on Thursday.

Fanta’s uncle Abu Bility said they wanted a “closure” and didn’t want to relive the tragedy with a trial.

“Words cannot describe the agony we constantly feel as we relive the loss of our dear Fanta, who was only 8 years old when she was killed by Sharon Hill police,” Bility told One Thursday Pennsylvania Courthouse.

“Because her mother and siblings witnessed this tragic incident, they will have to live with this trauma for the rest of their lives, which is etched in their memories.”

Lawyers for the officers had argued that the manslaughter charges should have been dropped because it was unclear who fired the fatal shot. The bullet that hit Fanta was badly damaged. However, a judge denied the request.

Devaney, Dolan and Smith responded to gunshots fired at the game after a fight broke out between two teenagers. Officers opened fire on a vehicle they believed was involved in the shooting, firing 25 rounds. Fanta and four other bystanders were hit by gunfire.

District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said the “initial ballistics analysis” concluded with “almost certainty” that bullets fired from[Polizeibeamten]were fired that killed eight-year-old Fanta Bility on August 27. Photo: Action News 6/ YouTube screenshot[policeofficerskilledeight-year-oldFantaBilityonAug27Photo:ActionNews6/YouTubescreenshot[policeofficerskilledeight-year-oldFantaBilityonAug27Photo:ActionNews6/YouTubescreenshot

Lawyers for the officers argued that the girl’s death resulted from the shooting between the two teenagers and they should be held responsible. Prosecutors had initially brought charges against the teenagers for Fanta’s murder, but later dropped them before charging officers.

“This is a terrible tragedy created by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene where an innocent child lost her life and others were seriously injured,” the officers’ legal team said when the indictment raised was announced.

“These three officers ran into shots and risked their own lives to protect this community. These three good men are innocent and heartbroken for all who have suffered from this senseless violence.”

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer had argued that all three officers were equally responsible for the girl’s death by shooting in the crowded area. However, the prosecutor negotiated the plea deal on behalf of the family this week.

Bility said the decision came “after much prayer and discussion.”

“We pray that as a family and as a community we can finally have closure and begin the healing process because police officers will be held accountable,” he said.

Any charge of negligent endangerment is punishable by up to two years in prison. Accordingly, the officials could each face up to 20 years. Sentencing is scheduled for January 12.

Fanta’s family plans to file a civil suit after the verdict is announced. They are also calling for reforms within the Sharon Hill Police Department. Family supports plea for police officers charged in fatally shooting an 8-year-old girl who was caught in police crossfire leaving a soccer game

James Brien

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