Three Pennsylvania police officers have been charged with shooting an 8-year-old girl and injuring three other people outside a high school football game, officials said.
Sharon Hill police officers Devon Smith, 34, Sean Dolan, 25, and Brian Devaney, 41, were struck by a total of 12 counts of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangering the shooting on Aug. 27, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office said. Tuesday.
The shooting took place outside Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill as fans left a game against Pennsbury High School, prosecutors said.
Police said Angelo AJ “Ford, 16, got into an argument with Hasein Strand, 19, which escalated to gunfire about a block from the stadium.
According to prosecutor Jack Stollsteimer, the three officers were standing opposite the exit of the stadiums as the fans left.
Police “threw their service weapons toward the Academy Park football field,” Stollsteimer said.
Fanta Bility, 8, was killed in the hail of gunfire.
“We have now come to the conclusion beyond reasonable doubt that it was in fact shots fired by the officers who beat and killed Fanta Bility and wounded three others,” Stollsteimer said.
“The entire Borough is in mourning for Fanta Bility and we extend our deepest condolences to her family and everyone affected by the shooting,” the DA’s statement said.
“Today’s indictment of our police officers brings us to another solemn moment. Today we need to think about our safety and about those who are sworn to protect and serve, he added.
Investigators determined that the officers opened fire towards the football field after two shots were fired in their direction as they watched the exciting crowd, prosecutors said.
The three officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.
Bail was set at $500,000 for each of them, and the preliminary hearings are set for January 27.
“This is a terrible tragedy caused by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene in which an innocent child was killed and others were seriously injured,” said lawyers for the defendants, Raymond Driscoll. Steven Patton and Charles Gibbs, said in a joint statement.
“These three officers ran to the sound of gunfire and risked their own lives to protect that community. These three good men are innocent and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered this senseless violence, she added.
Strand, one of the teens involved in the altercation, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm and aggravated assault for injuring a child during the firefight.
He will serve a sentence of 32 to 64 months behind bars and will remain under court supervision until 2030, ABC News reported.
The other teen “remains charged with serious crimes for his attempt to murder Strand,” officials said.
Bruce Castor Jr., a lawyer for the Bility family, thanked Stollsteimer and the grand jury for assimilating the charges against the police.
“The family appreciates that the prosecutor kept the family informed at every stage of this investigation,” Castor said.
“From the outset, he assured them that he would seek justice for Fanta, and today’s charges indicate that he has done just that. They made the right decision, he added.
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