Will there be justice?
Source: Douglas Sacha / Getty
The three officers who recklessly opened fire on shooting suspects a block away from a high school football game in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, on August 27, ultimately striking and killing 8-year-old Fanta Bility and wounding several others, were fired Thursday, two days after they were finally charged in Fanta’s death.
According to CNN, ex-officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney were each charged Tuesday with one count of voluntary manslaughter, one count of involuntary manslaughter and 10 counts of reckless endangerment. The office of Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said they found manslaughter charges were “appropriate” in this case rather than murder in the third degree because there was no evidence of malice.
This brings us to the two Black shooting suspects who were charged with first-degree murder in Fanta’s death, despite the fact that, unlike the officers, they killed no one. As we previously reported, 16-year-old Angelo “AJ” Ford and 18-year-old Hasein Strand were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and other gun charges because they allegedly shot at each other following a verbal dispute, which prompted the cops to start firing wildly a block away.
On Tuesday, Stollsteimer directed his office to withdraw the charges against Angelo and Strand—who, again, killed zero people on August 27. Strand pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 32 to 64 months in prison and will remain under court supervision until 2030. Angelo, who allegedly initiated the shooting between him and Strand, still faces attempted murder, aggravated assault, and gun possession charges.
“From the moment the call came in on August 27, my team of investigators and prosecutors has worked tirelessly to achieve justice for Fanta and the other victims of that tragic night,” Stollsteimer said in a statement. “Today’s charges are a big step forward in that process.”
Bruce Castor, the attorney representing the Bility family, told CNN he’s “convinced the DA’s office and the grand jury did exactly what they should have done.”
“I am very pleased with how the DA’s office handled the case and the Bility family is likewise very impressed,” he continued.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the firing of the officers was decided after a 6-1 vote by the Sharon Hill Borough Council. Councilmember Sandra Holcombe was the lone dissenter. (Some people just really love cops and think they should be protected at all costs—including the cost of an 8-year-old Black girl’s life.)
Bail has been set at $500,000 for each former officer charged in Fanta’s death. A preliminary hearing is set for January 27.