Ex-Officers Cut Plea Deal In Fatal Shooting Of Third-Grader

Three former Sharon Hill police officers charged with killing an eight-year-old when they fired 25 shots at a moving car as a nearby crowd left a high school football game in 2021, have all pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment. 

According to Philadelphia ABC News station WPVI Brian Devaney, 41, Sean Dolan, 25, and Devon Smith, 34 were facing 12 criminal counts each of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment for the death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility

They pleaded guilty to the lesser charge as part of a plea agreement requested by the girl’s family. The manslaughter charges were dropped. 

The deceased child’s family approved of the deal, viewing it as the former officers taking accountability and admitting their wrongdoing. However, the family also did not want to relive the tragedy in a jury trial on the more serious charges.

Fanta Bility’s family attended the hearing and told reporters they hope the officers’ guilty pleas will help bring their family some “closure.”

“The agony we feel constantly reliving the loss of our dear Fanta who was just 8 years old when she was killed by Sharon Hill police officers, is impossible to describe with words,” Fanta Bility’s uncle, Abu Bility, told news cameras outside the courtroom. “Since her mother and siblings were witnesses to this tragic incident, they will have to live with that trauma imprinted in their memories for the rest of their lives.

Fanta and her family were leaving a Delaware County high school football game when a shooting erupted between two teens and prompted nearby officers to return fire. Fanta was fatally struck by the officer’s stray bullets. 

Initially, the two teens, Angelo “AJ” Ford and Hasein Strand, were charged with first-degree murder in Fanta’s death. But the charge was withdrawn and they pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

The grand jury then returned its indictment of the officers.

For months, prosecutors opposed the defense’s attempt to have the manslaughter charges thrown out. The prosecution argues that the former officers had not intended to kill the child, but nonetheless acted criminally when they fired at a car they wrongly thought contained gunmen, missed, and hit four spectators, including Fanta.

According to AP, ballistics testing could not determine which officer fired the shot that killed Fanta. However, a grand jury recommended that all three face charges in the August 2021 death.

As misdemeanors, the 10 reckless endangerment charges each carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Dolan, Smith and Devaney could face up to 20 years each in prison. Sentencing is set for January 12.

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