3 Pennsylvania police officers fired for fatal shooting of 8-year-old Fanta Bility
LEVITTOWN, Pa. — Three Pennsylvania police officers were fired Thursday after being charged this week in the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility.
Fanta was killed in August when officers fired dozens of shots at a car moving through a crowd after gunfire broke out near a high school football game.
The Sharon Hill Borough Council voted 6-1 Thursday to fire Brian Devaney, 41; Sean Dolan, 25; and Devon Smith, 33. The vote sparked outbursts from the crowd at the meeting.
The firing comes after District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced Tuesday that a Delaware County grand jury had recommended charges of voluntary manslaughter, manslaughter and reckless endangerment for the Aug. 27 shooting
Bail was set at $500,000, unsecured, for each officer and a preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 27 in Springfield District Court.
“The entire Borough grieves for Fanta Bility and we again convey our deepest sympathies to her family and everyone affected by the shooting," Council President Tanya Allen said in a statement released after the vote. "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.”
How did the shooting happen?
Fanta was killed Aug. 27 when police opened fire while responding to a shooting that sent spectators, players and coaches scrambling for cover after a high school football game in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania.
The game had just finished between Pennsbury and Academy Park high schools. About a block away, an argument between a group of young men escalated into a gunfire as the crowd exited the stadium, authorities said. Two shots were fired in the direction of the police officers, who were near the stadium's exit.
"The police officers then discharged their service weapons in the direction of the Academy Park football field," the Delaware County District Attorney's Office said.
Police fired 25 shots at a car that was driving past the stadium and hit four people — including Fanta and her 12-year-old sister. Investigators later determined the vehicle was not involved in the nearby shooting.
"They picked the wrong target, they shot in the wrong direction at it, and they shot as that target was moving through a crowd of people. And that is why Fanta Bility is dead," Stollsteimer said on Tuesday.
The three officers were equipped with body cameras, but Devaney was not wearing his that night and Dolan and Smith did not turn on their cameras, according to court documents.
Charges against teenagers dropped after protests
Although prosecutors initially said police likely fired the fatal shots, the teenagers involved in the initial fight were charged with first-degree murder in connection with Fanta's death in November.
An investigation later confirmed that police were responsible for killing Fanta and injuring three others. Stollsteimer said Tuesday that murder charges related to Fanta's death were dropped against the two teenagers, a 16-year-old and Hasein Strand, 19.
“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,” Stollsteimer said in a written statement.
Last week, activists and civil rights lawyers excoriated Stollsteimer over what they called his disparate treatment of the two Black teenagers — who faced charges that could put them away for life — and officers who fired their guns in an area crowded with people.
Stollsteimer said the officers were charged with manslaughter, not third-degree murder, because there was no evidence of malice.
The protest came on the day the teen faced a hearing in the case, which was postponed.
On Tuesday, Strand pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for his role in wounding one of the children and to illegal possession of a firearm. He will serve between 32 and 64 months in prison, according to the district attorney's office.
The 16-year-old is still facing charges for his “attempt to kill Strand," according to the release.
Contributing: Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks Country Courier Times; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Fanta Bility death: 3 Pennsylvania police officers fired after charges