Two social justice groups active in Delaware County, UDTJ and Delco Resists, plan a Thursday afternoon rally outside the courthouse in Media seeking justice in the August 2021 death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility.
The timing is intended to coincide with the scheduled preliminary hearing of Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, one of the two teens charged with first-degree murder in Bility’s death — even though the bullet that killed her came from a Sharon Hill police officer.
“We plan on showing up in force and building momentum overall for, you know, the fight for justice for Fanta, the prosecution of the officers, and the dropping of the first of the murder charges against AJ and Hasein [Strand],” said Kyle McIntyre, one of UDTJ’s coordinators.
The case has garnered national attention since Sharon Hill police officers responded to hearing gunfire a block away by firing into a crowd as people were leaving a football game at Academy Park High School. Whether the officers will be charged is still before a grand jury, though Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer moved relatively swiftly to charge others.
Stollsteimer’s office determined in November that the two teens, who allegedly got into an argument at the game and fired weapons at each other on the 900 block of Coates Street — a block away from the stadium — were criminally liable for Fanta Bility’s death.
The DA has asked for patience while the grand jury considers the case, but the community has grown increasingly skeptical about the prospect of complete accountability.
More recently, a handful of Philadelphia City Council members — Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Helen Gym, and Isaiah Thomas — released a statement expressing “solidarity in the fight for justice for Fanta Bility.”
“What we are seeing in Sharon Hill is a shocking miscarriage of justice. Today we stand together in solidarity with the Bility family and concerned community members to call for transparency regarding the investigation into the actions of the police officers responsible for this grievous act, and to demand that these officers be dismissed from duty,” the statement issued Wednesday said.
Though the statement acknowledged that the teens deserve to face “appropriate consequences,” the council members specifically took aim at Stollsteimer by calling the first-degree murder charges “completely inappropriate.”
“Legal experts who have weighed in on the matter say there is little chance of these charges standing up in court. From our perspective, and from the perspective of the victim’s family, this is just a ruse to distract from the terrible decisions police officers made that day – and to allow them to evade scrutiny,” the statement said.
The council members called on Stollsteimer to terminate the police officers and commission an independent investigation, all before addressing the racial implications.
“It is inconceivable that police officers would shoot into a crowd of white people — and it’s inconceivable that two young white men would be charged with first-degree murder in a similar scenario,” the statement said.
WHYY News reached out to Stollsteimer’s office, but his spokesperson declined to comment, citing the ongoing grand jury proceedings.
McIntyre said that some of the Philadelphia council members will be present at the rally, and that UDTJ and Delco Resists have demands as well.
“We’re asking for the immediate withdrawal of the first-degree murder charges. And the immediate public release of the names of officers who discharged the weapons at the earliest possibility, and the accountability of the officers and the departments for their actions — and so that also means filing charges against those officers for, at the bare minimum, criminal negligence for firing into a crowd,” McIntyre said.
Ashley Dolceamore, a co-founder of Delco Resists, wants the public to know that all planning of action is being done with the family in mind.
“Throughout this process, everything that we’re doing, we’re including the families in the ideas that we have in our decision-making, we make sure that they’re OK and comfortable with everything we’re doing. And we’ll continue doing that moving forward,” Dolceamore said.
The rally is planned from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday to coincide with the preliminary hearing for Ford. McIntyre said that a previous hearing was rescheduled because of “mobilization of the community.”
Saturdays just got more interesting.