Sharon Hill’s independent report into police shooting of Fanta Bility is finished — the public might not see it until end of July

The Justice for Fanta Bility silent march

The Justice for Fanta Bility silent march in Sharon Hill on Oct. 17, 2021. Fanta Bility, 8, was shot and killed outside a football game at Academy Park High School on Aug. 27, 2021. (Daniella Heminghaus for WHYY)

The independent investigation into the Sharon Hill Police Department procedures launched after the police killing of eight-year-old Fanta Bility and wounding of three others is complete — but the family and the public might have to wait until the end of July to see it.

Kelley Hodge and the law firm Fox-Rothschild LLP concluded their nine-month investigation in June. According to Tuesday’s press release issued by the borough’s solicitor, the report looked into use of force training as well as included best practices of community policing.

Sharon Hill Borough Council has had a written report from Hodge since June, but it has not released it yet.

“Council would like to reiterate that it has always been the express intent of Council to release the report immediately following receipt and internal review. The report is expected to be released to the public no later than July 31, 2022,” the release said.

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WHYY News reached out to borough solicitor Courtney Richardson for comment about why the borough is delaying the release of the report, but did not immediately receive a response.

Three former Sharon Hill police officers, Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan, and Devon Smith were charged back in January with manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment for shooting at a moving vehicle after hearing gunfire as people left an Academy Park High School football game in August 2021.

There is currently a criminal case against the officers as well as a civil case against the borough. Bruce Castor, the attorney representing the Bility family, said that they want the facts to come out.

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The former district attorney in Montgomery County said that the “public report” was generated at the taxpayer’s expense. As a result, he believes that the borough has a duty to release it.

“You would expect them to be relatively quickly releasing it, because they’re trying to get to the truth just like everyone else is. And if it has been around and hasn’t been released — my suspicions would conclude that there are things in the report that are not favorable to the borough,” Castor said.

He added that there may be some strategizing on the side of the borough. A court hearing for the three officers is scheduled for July 25.

“If I was advising the borough, I’d be trying to figure out what the best way is to release the information, keep the public informed and at the same time, not mess up a criminal prosecution, or mess up a civil lawsuit,” Castor said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in January that the former Sharon Hill officers charged with killing Fanta may have acted against department policy.

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