Sharon Hill, PA — When 8-year-old Fanta Bility and her family attended a high school football game back in 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, because cops in America don’t hold themselves accountable for their own actions, they are charging two teenage boys with Fanta’s murder — despite the fact that she died at the hands of police guns.
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. It has been nearly three months since little Fanta took her last breath and no officers have been charged — only two teens who happened to be fighting nearby.
Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18, face first-degree murder, aggravated-assault, and gun charges in the shooting, according to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.
Stollsteimer said that charges against Ford and Strand are an “important step in [his] office’s continuing effort to seek justice for Fanta.” However, erroneously charging two teens who did not kill Fanta, with Fanta’s murder, is hardly seeking justice for anyone.
The legal basis for charging the two teens “is very simple,” First Assistant District Attorney Tanner Rouse said in a statement, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They were attempting to kill one another that night, and as a direct result a little girl is dead.”
But 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.
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 that fateful 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 those 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 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, officers Devon Smith, John Scanlan III, and a third unnamed officer all fired their weapons that night, although the third officer is not named in the lawsuit.
“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 joins the caucus in that call.
As the NY Times reports, the charges against the two teens rely on a legal theory known as “transferred intent,” which prosecutors believe applies in this case because they say the two teenagers had intended to kill each other, and the result of their actions was Fanta’s death. But experts say prosecutors are stretching the definition of “transferred intent” and could have difficulty making the charges stand up in court.
According to prosecutors in the case, a grand jury will begin reviewing the role of the officers in the shooting on Nov. 18. However, the community is already looking at the “transferred intent” charges against the two teens as the department’s way of alleviating liability and backdoor clearing the cops.
Castor, who, according to WHYY, worked in law enforcement for three decades, has said he knows what an acceptable level of force is and though he does not believe the officers acted with malice or intent to kill, he does believe they acted recklessly and are to blame for the child’s death.
Indeed, opening fire toward a crowd of people, including small children, to shoot at a vehicle that had nothing to do with the original shooting, is reckless, to say the least.
“I want the focus to remain on the Sharon Hill police officers whose negligent and reckless behavior in reacting as they did is what killed Fanta Bility,” said Castor. “From the point of view of the Bility family, these officers killed Fanta, and they need to be held accountable for that, and those responsible for their supervision and training need to be held accountable for that.”