Three fired police officers who pleaded 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 are set to be sentenced Friday
PHILADELPHIA — 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 are set to be sentenced Friday.
Former Sharon Hill officers Brian Devaney, Devon Smith and Sean Dolan have pleaded guilty to 10 counts each of reckless endangerment. Investigators say they could not determine which officer fired the shot that killed Fanta Bility on Aug. 27, 2021. The charge carries a maximum term of up to two years in prison in Pennsylvania.
Prosecutors contend 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.
The November plea agreements that dismissed those more serious charges came after consultations with the Bility family.
The 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.
“The agony we feel constantly re-living 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,” the family said in a statement last year.
Lawyers for the ex-officers, who have been free on bail, initially called her death a tragedy caused by the teens who engaged in gunfire. The lawyers did not immediately return calls seeking comment Thursday.
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