Three Sharon Hill police officers charged in the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced the charges in connection with the August incident after an Academy Park football game.

A person holds a sign that reads Justice for Fanta in front of a sign that reads Sharon Hill Police Department.

File photo: The Justice for Fanta Bility silent march in Sharon Hill, PA on 10/17/21. Fanta Bility was an eight year old girl who was shot and killed outside of a football game at Academy Park High School on August 27, 2021. (Daniella Heminghaus for WHYY)

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced Tuesday criminal charges against three Sharon Hill Police officers in the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility and the wounding of three others.

A grand jury had been deliberating since November, reviewing the events that followed an Academy Park High School football game in August. The grand jury recently made a presentment recommending the charges,  which Stollsteimer approved.

Sharon Hill officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney face 12 criminal counts each of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in connection firing their weapons into a crowd following an Academy Park High School football game in August after hearing gunshots a block away.

On hearing word of the charges, the Sharon Hill Borough Council announced in a statement that it plans on voting to fire the officers.

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“From the moment the call came in on Aug. 27, my team of investigators and prosecutors has worked tirelessly to achieve justice for Fanta and the other victims of that tragic night. Today’s charges are a big step forward in that process,” Stollsteimer said in a statement announcing the charges.

A preliminary hearing for the three officers has been scheduled for Jan. 27.

In the statement, the Bility family’s lawyer, Bruce Castor, also thanked Stollsteimer for his handling of the investigation.

“The family appreciates that the district attorney has kept the family informed at every stage of this investigation. From the beginning, he assured them that he would seek justice for Fanta, and today’s charges indicate that he’s done exactly that. They made the right call,” Castor said in the statement.

A motion to fire Devaney, Smith, and Dolan has been placed on the agenda for the Sharon Hill Council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 22.

In its statement, the borough cited Section 1190 of the Borough Code as justification to fire officers who “neglect or violate any official duty or violate any law if the violation constitutes a misdemeanor of felony.”

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“Today we must reflect on our safety, and on those who are sworn to protect and serve,”  Council President Tanya Allen said in a statement. “We respect the judicial process and while we have been patient in our approach, now that the grand jury has concluded its investigation, and given the serious charges issued by the district attorney, we are able to move forward with measures that will hold the officers accountable.”

The borough’s own administrative investigation into Sharon Hill Police policy and misconduct is ongoing.

Stollsteimer said he has decided to withdraw charges against Angelo “AJ” Ford and Hasein Strand, the two teens charged with first-degree murder in Bility’s death even though evidence showed the officers had fired the bullets that killed her.

“​​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 Stollsteimer.

Ford is still charged with attempting to kill Strand. Strand has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the wounding of a child bystander and illegal possession of a firearm during the gunfight on the 900 block of Coates Street that preceded the officers discharging their weapons.

Strand will serve a term of two to five years at a state correctional facility and will remain under the supervision of the courts until 2030.

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