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8-year old Fanta Bility was the only one killed in the Academy Park shooting.
8-year old Fanta Bility was the only one killed in the Academy Park shooting. Photo: Bruce L. Castor Jr.

Attorneys for three former officers involved in Academy Park shooting look to dismiss most serious charges

A year after the killing of eight-year old Fanta Bility at the hands of three Sharon Hill officers, their attorneys are looking for dismissal.

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On a somber Monday morning in a Delaware County Courthouse, July 25, for advocates and the family of Fanta Bility, another blow was struck to their morale. A judge heard the arguments from the lawyers of the three former Sharon Hill police officers involved in the killing of eight-year old Fanta Bility in August of last year at Academy Park High School. The lawyers are looking to dismiss two of the most serious charges, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. 

On Aug. 27, 2021, Fanta Bility and her family were leaving a football game at Academy Park High School. The three officers, Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney, were overseeing people as they left the stadium when an argument broke out between 16-year-old Angelo ‘A.J.’ Ford and Hasein Strand, 19, and investigators say two bullets were fired in the direction of the officers. 

In response, the officers opened fire on a passing vehicle they thought was involved in the initial shots, and struck the car and the crowd. In the aftermath, 8-year old Bility was the only one to be killed, and her sister was injured. According to prosecutors, the three officers fired 25 shots that led to the killing of Bility. 

This past January, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced that each of the officers were charged with 12 counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Initially, Stollsteimer brought first-degree murder charges against the two men who initially started the firing, Strand and Ford, but those were later withdrawn. 

However, according to a release, Ford still faces charges for his “attempt to kill Strand.” Strand pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm and aggravated assault for his involvement in the shooting of a child. Later on, the three officers were fired from the Sharon Hill Police Department amid a borough vote. 

This past Monday in a Delaware County Court, the defense argued for the dropping of the manslaughter charges, arguing that the mere profession of the three men, policing, was the influence of harsh penalties brought against them. Stollsteimer, however, called it “absolutely wrong.”

"It doesn't matter who shot, what their profession was, if anybody had done what they did that night they would be facing the same charges,” Stollsteimer said. 

A Pennsylvania judge hopes to have a final decision by mid-September. 

“We will continue to fight until we get justice for Fanta,” said Bility’s uncle, Abu, after the announcement from the defense. 

President of the Darby-area branch of the NAACP, Sheila Carter was also outside of the courthouse when the defense was made. 

"And we are standing here today trying to determine if we should charge the three officers that fired their weapons because, at this point, we're not sure which bullet killed Fanta? It doesn't make a difference,” she said.

 

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