MEDIA, Pa. — Three Pennsylvania officers face charges related to the death of a young girl who was shot by police while at a high school football game last summer.
A grand jury found the Sharon Hill police officers collectively fired their weapons more than two dozen times, injuring four people and leaving Fanta Bility, 8, dead, CBS 3 Philly reported.
Officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney are each charged with manslaughter and reckless endangerment in connection to Bility’s death. They are also charged in the wounding of three others, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Tuesday.
“These officers made a split-second decision to return fire. We trust them to get that decision right and they got it horribly wrong,” Stollsteimer said.
The tragedy unfolded after the Academy Park-Pennsbury football game on Aug. 27 when witnesses told police that Hasein Strand, 18, and Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, got into an argument before firing at each other.
The three Sharon Hill officers were at the location as attendees were exiting. They heard gunfire and became involved. As officers discharged their weapons, cumulatively 25 times, Bility was killed, CBS reported.
“The grand jury is an investigative tool under Pennsylvania law for complicated cases. It really helps you sort through the evidence and there was a lot of evidence to get through here,” Stollsteimer said when asked about the timing of the charges.
Lawyers representing the officers wrote in a statement: “These three good men are innocent, and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence.”
Joseph Fitzgerald, president of Delco FOP Lodge 27, said in a statement: “The FOP continues to support these fine officers and will provide a vigorous defense against these allegations.”
First-degree murder charges against Ford and Strand were dismissed in November, according to Stollsteimer,
“We have withdrawn murder charges against the two juveniles who started the series of tragic events that evening,” Stollsteimer said.
Hence, he’ll serve up to 64 months in prison, according to the news outlet.