SHARON HILL, Pa. - A Delaware County judge on Thursday upheld charges against three former Sharon Hill police officers charged in the deadly shooting of 8-year-old Fanta Bility.
Officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney face manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges for the deadly shooting last August. They were fired from the Sharron Hill Police Department following a 6-1 Borough Council vote in January.
According to investigators, on Aug. 27 the officers were patrolling fans leaving an Academy Park High School football game when gunfire erupted on a nearby street. It's believed that at least two shots were fired in the direction of the officers.
In response, investigators said the officers fired at a car they believed was involved in the initial gunfire, striking the car and members of the crowd of people leaving the game. Investigators later determined that the women in the car were not responsible for the initial gunfire.
It’s unclear which officer fired the bullet that killed Bility because it was too badly damaged to trace to a specific gun, but investigators testified Thursday that they were able to trace it to a police-issued handgun. Prosecutors said during the hearing that the officers acted negligently by firing at a moving vehicle.
Authorities had previously charged two teens in connection with the initial gunshots that were fired - Angelo "AJ" Ford, 16, of Sharon Hill, and Hasein Strand, 18, of Collingdale. Those charges were later dropped.
"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 wrote in the emailed release.
Ford is still facing charges for his "attempt to kill Strand," according to the release.
Strand later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for his role in wounding one of the children struck by gunfire and to illegal possession of a firearm. In an emailed news release, a spokesperson said under the terms of the plea agreement, Strand will serve between 32 and 64 months in prison.
Meanwhile, the officer's legal defense claims they were charged under political pressure.
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