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Three Pennsylvania Cops Charged With Shooting 8-Year-Old At High School Football Game
Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney have been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in connection with a shooting that killed Fanta Bility and wounded three others at a high school football game.
Three Pennsylvania police officers have been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter for the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl.
Fanta Bility was shot to death outside of a high school football game in Sharon Hill on Aug. 27. Fanta's older sister, Mamasu Bility, 12, was also injured during the shooting, the Delaware Valley Journal reported, Alona Ellison-Acosta was shot in the foot and Anya Kellan was grazed by a bullet on her ankle.
The district attorney’s office had announced in September that “there was a high probability that the gunfire from the officers struck four victims, including Fanta Bility.”
“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 Delaware County District Attorney's Office announced on Tuesday.
Sharon Hill Police Officers Devon Smith, 33, Sean Dolan, 25, and Brian Devaney, 41, have each been charged with 12 criminal counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the case.
The release stated that the chaotic night “began with gun shots.”
“That gunfire included two shots in the direction of the three defendants, who were monitoring the crowd exiting the Academy Park High School stadium at the conclusion of that night’s football game,” it continued. “The police officers then discharged their service weapons in the direction of the Academy Park football field.”
Two teens had already been charged with firing the first two shots, after investigators linked the eruption of gunfire to a “verbal altercation” at the football game between Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18. Ford “remains charged with serious crimes for his attempt to kill defendant Strand,” the press release states.
Strand pleaded guilty on Tuesday to aggravated assault for his wounding of a child bystander during the gunfight as well as illegal possession of a firearm. He will serve between 32 and 64 months at a state correctional institute, the district attorney's release said.
“Relatedly, I am also announcing today that I have directed my office to withdraw murder charges against defendants A.J. Ford and Hasein Strand for their role in the killing of Fanta Bility,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in the press release.
“While I believe these defendants should be held accountable for starting the series of events that ultimately led to Fanta Bility’s death, developments during the grand jury investigation render it appropriate to withdraw these charges at this time,” he added.
During a Tuesday press conference Stollsteimer stated that the police "picked the wrong target, they shot in the wrong direction at it, and they shot as that target was moving through a crowd of people. And that is why Fanta Bility is dead."
The officers are represented by Philadelphia-based firm McMonagle Perri McHugh Mischak Davis, who on Wednesday told Oxygen.com in a statement that "this is a terrible tragedy that was caused by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene in which an innocent child lost her life and others were seriously injured."
The law firm goes on to state that "these three officers ran to the sound of gunshots and risked their own lives to protect that community. These three good men are innocent, and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence."
Bail was set for all three officers at $500,000 each. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 27.
“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 stated. “No one touched by this incident will ever be the same. 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.”