3 former Sharon Hill police officers plead guilty in deadly shooting of Fanta Bility

A person holds a sign that reads

File photo: Protesters call for police accountability in the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility who was shot outside a football game, at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media, Pa., on Jan. 13, 2022. Three former police officers charged with killing the young girl when they fired 25 shots at a moving car as a nearby crowd left a high school football game will face trial on manslaughter charges, a suburban Philadelphia judge ruled Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Three former police officers have pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in connection to the high-profile police shooting that killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility in Delaware County last August.

Former officers Brian Devany, Sean Dolan, and Devon Smith were facing 12 criminal counts each of manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

Each officer pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment during a court hearing Thursday morning. Sentencing is set for January 12. The maximum penalty for each charge is two years.

“Fanta’s death was a tragedy for her family, her friends, and for the entire community – and nothing that happened in the courtroom today can lessen the grief that we have all felt since that terrible night.” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in a statement to WHYY News. “Led by the family’s wishes, we have arrived at today’s result. Today’s conviction brings accountability for Fanta Bility’s death.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In a statement on Thursday, Bility’s family said they supported the outcome.

“We are still coming to grips with the reality that our beloved Fanta is gone forever. That is why it is critically important for our family to begin the healing process which cannot happen while this matter remains unresolved. Therefore, after much prayer and discussion with our family, we determined it was in our best interest for the District Attorney to ensure that the police officers take responsibility for their actions, admit to their reckless conduct endangering many, and killing our Fanta. We pray that as a result of the police officers being held accountable, we can as a family and as a community, finally have some closure and begin the healing process.”

Bility was fatally shot in August 2021 as she walked with her mother following a football game at Academy Park High School. Her sister was also hurt.

“The agony we feel constantly reliving the loss of our dear Fanta who was just 8 years old when she was killed by Sharon Hill police officers, is impossible to describe with words,” according to the families statement. “Since her mother and siblings were witnesses to this tragic incident, they will have to live with that trauma imprinted in their memories for the rest of their lives.”

All three officers fired their weapons as the game was letting out in response to gunfire they heard in the vicinity that was unrelated to the football game.

They fired 25 shots at a black Chevy Impala, which they believed was where the shots were coming from.

That vehicle was passing the exiting crowd, which included Bility.

The gunmen who fired the initial shots, Angelo “AJ” Ford and Hasein Strand, were charged with first-degree murder in Bility’s death, but the charge was withdrawn and they pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Rich Herron, chief of police of the Sharon Hill Borough Police Department, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the plea deal.

A civil case against Sharon Hill Borough is still pending.

The lawsuit accuses Devaney, Dolan, and Smith of using excessive force and inflicting emotional distress, while blaming the Sharon Hill Borough Council and police chief for failing to properly train officers.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal