Sharon Hill, PA — When 8-year-old Fanta Bility and her family attended a high school football game last August, they never imagined that their worst nightmare would come true that night. Sadly, however, thanks to a group of trigger happy police officers using excessive force, that is exactly what happened. Now, after attempting to escape accountability by charging two teenage boys with Fanta's murder — despite the fact that she died at the hands of police guns — the three officers who opened fire that day have been charged.
Officers Brian Devaney, 41; Sean Dolan, 25; and Devon Smith, 33, were charged this week with voluntary manslaughter, manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
Predictably, the police union-appointed attorneys for the officers disagreed with the charges, claiming that the cops who opened fire into a crowd of innocent people, were essentially heroes.
"These three officers ran to the sound of gunshots and risked their own lives to protect that community," read the statement from attorneys Raymond Dirscoll, Steven Patton and Chalres Gibbs with the firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak, Davis. "These three good men are innocent and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence."
But the senseless violence was caused by them as the two teens who shot at each other earlier had stopped shooting and fled the scene. It was police who mistook innocent people for criminals and began shooting.
As Fanta and her family walked out of the game that night, police opened fire into their group, killing Fanta and wounding several others, including her older sister.
As stated above, in their original attempt to avoid accountability, police charged the two teens who were fighting, Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18. They were both charged with murder over Fanta's death — despite not being the ones who killed her. However, now that the officers have been charged, the district attorney has withdrawn the murder charges.
“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,” said District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer in a written statement, according to the Courier Times.
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If we review the facts of the case, other than the two boys trying to hurt each other, they were nowhere near Fanta and had nothing to do with her death other than triggering a few gun crazy cops — who were the ones who actually killed Fanta. So, withdrawing the murder charges is only logical.
According to the family's attorney Bruce L. Castor, the girl's family filed a lawsuit which “seeks answers and damages for the tragic and unnecessary death ... and the injury and trauma inflicted on others as a result of the misconduct of Sharon Hill Police officers.”
On the night on August 27, Fanta and her family were leaving a football game at Academy Park High when a shooting took place about a block away during an argument between the two teens. The firing had stopped and the fans of the football game were calmly walking out when a vehicle drove in front of stadium exit.
For some reason, police outside of the stadium mistook that vehicle for a suspect, claiming the vehicle fired on them, and opened fire on it with a crowd of people behind them — firing 25 rounds. One of those bullets hit Fanta in her back. Tenneh Kromah, Fanta's mother, “attempted to comfort the terror-stricken little girl before she died" in her mother's arms right there on the ground that night, according to the lawsuit.
Castor alleges in the lawsuit that police were “deliberately indifferent and reckless” and that the borough and its police chief had given the officers “tacit approval” to behave in that manner.
According to the complaint, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the officers all fired their weapons that night.
“The main thrust of the suit is Sharon Hill Borough’s inadequate training and supervision of its police officers, and the police officers acting grossly negligent or recklessly, leading to Fanta being killed and her sister being wounded,” said Castor according to WHYY Philly.
Aside from Fanta and her sister Mawatta, two other women were shot with police bullets that night. Those two women were recent graduates from Academy Park High School and were inside the vehicle at which police opened fire. A law enforcement source told the Inquirer that the occupants of the vehicle were there to watch the football game that night and had nothing to do with the initial gunfire. Police have since admitted this fact.
The Delaware County Black Caucus has called for all three of the officers who opened fire that night to be fired. The lawsuit joined the caucus in that call. Yet in spite of the charges, none of the officers involved have been fired.