Fanta Bility case: Former Pennsylvania police officers sentenced in 8-year-old girl's shooting death
SHARON HILL, Pa. - Three fired police officers who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the death of an 8-year-old girl killed when they opened fire outside a high school football game near Philadelphia were sentenced Friday.
Former Sharon Hill officers Brian Devaney, Devon Smith and Sean Dolan pled guilty to 10 counts each of reckless endangerment in the August 27, 2021, shooting that killed Fanta Bility.
According to FOX 29's Jeff Cole, the officers were sentenced to 11 months of house arrest and five years of probation.
Prosecutors contended the officers negligently fired 25 shots at a car they mistakenly thought was involved in gunfire that broke out as spectators left the football game in 2021. Devaney was not wearing a body camera, and the other two officers did not turn their cameras on, investigators found.
Bility had attended the game at Academy Park High School with her mother and an older sister who was also shot but survived. In all, four people were hit by police bullets that sped past the car.
The handling of the case prompted outrage and protests from the Black community and others as District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer initially charged two Black teens who engaged in gunfire a block away — which prompted the police response — with the child's death. Those charges were later dropped, and, after a grand jury investigation, the officers were instead charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter along with the endangerment counts.
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The Bitily family, who belong to a community of immigrants from West Africa, said it was important that the officers take responsibility for the girl's death and the trauma they experienced. They have a federal lawsuit pending against the defendants and the Sharon Hill police department.
After sentencing, the Bility family addressed the media, saying they offer forgiveness to the officers, but will always remember their daughter. "We forgive, but we will never forgive," Fanta's mother said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.