The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office has charged two individuals with first-degree murder and related offenses in connection with the Aug. 27 police shooting of 8-year-old Fanta Bility.
Still to be determined by a grand jury, DA Jack Stollsteimer said in a statement Wednesday, is whether charges will be brought against the three Sharon Hill police officers who fired into a crowd on hearing gunshots as people were leaving a football game at Academy Park High School. A ballistics analysis has concluded that the shot that killed Bility came from one of the police officers’ weapons.
In a statement, the DA’s Office said that Angelo Ford, 16, of Sharon Hill, had been arrested, and that law enforcement was looking for Hasein Strand, 18, of Collingdale. The pair allegedly got into an argument at the football game and fired shots at each other on the 900 block of Coates Street, near the stadium.
One person was wounded in the initial crossfire. The three Sharon Hill police officers heard the shots and saw a car approaching from that direction, so they fired their weapons as well, fatally wounding Bility and injuring three other people.
In its statement, Stollsteimer’s office said it has determined that Ford and Strand should be held criminally liable for Bility’s death as well as the wounding of the three others. Stollsteimer said his office would “continue its comprehensive review” of all parties, noting that on Nov. 18, a grand jury will convene and review the entirety of the case to determine whether the police officers’ use of force was justified.
“I ask for the community’s continued patience as the grand jury undertakes its investigation,” Stollsteimer said in the statement.
He declined a WHYY News request for an interview with him Wednesday afternoon.
Bruce Castor, the attorney representing the Bility family in a civil suit against the borough of Sharon Hill, its police department, and some officers, told WHYY News that he thought Stollsteimer’s decision to charge Ford and Strand with first-degree murder was “pretty aggressive.”
“I think that’s going to be a very difficult case, and I wish him well,” said Castor, who was a longtime prosecutor in Montgomery County.
But Castor said both he and the Bility family were confused by the apparent shift in the investigation’s direction.
“How is it possible that these two people could be considered as the main focus of the investigation, when it’s the police officers’ bullet that killed Fanta Bility and injured other people — and the lack of training and the lack of supervision that the police officers had? The focus has to remain on the police reaction,” Castor said.
In his judgment, the police response was “reckless,” Castor said, adding that he hopes that the grand jury finds criminality in their actions. He said the next course of action will be to sit back and let the grand jury do its job.
Castor said that he spoke with Bility’s father after the charges were announced, and that his stance is unchanged.
“After I explained what was happening, he told me that it wasn’t the two boys that were shooting at each other earlier up the street that killed his daughter, it was the police officers that killed his daughter, and he did not lose sight of that fact — and I do not intend to lose sight of that fact,” Castor said.
In a statement released shortly after Wednesday’s announcement. Sharon Hill Borough Council, which is named in the civil lawsuit filed by the Bility family, offered its “hopes that justice will be served” for Bility.
The council said its own administrative investigation is ongoing, but offered no new details.