Three former Pennsylvania police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 counts of reckless endangerment in connection with the death of an 8-year-old girl who was shot while leaving a high school football game in suburban Philadelphia.
Fanta Bility was killed on Aug. 27, 2021, when officers fired dozens of shots at a car moving through a crowd after gunfire broke out near the football field.
As part of the plea deals, the more serious charges of manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter against the three former Sharon Hill Borough officers were dropped. The former officers — Sean Dolan, 26; Devon Smith, 35; and Brian Devaney, 42 — will remain free on bail until a sentencing hearing in January.
BACKGROUND:3 officers fired for fatal shooting of 8-year-old Fanta Bility
The shooting happened as the crowd exited the stadium just after the game finished. An argument between a group of young men escalated into gunfire and shots were fired in the direction of police officers near the stadium’s exit, authorities said.
Police fired 25 shots at a car driving past the stadium and four people — including Fanta and her 12-year-old sister — were wounded. Investigators later determined the vehicle was not involved in the nearby shooting.
The teenagers involved in the initial shooting were charged with first-degree murder in connection with Fanta’s death but charges were later dropped. In January, the officers were fired and charged.
INITIAL INVESTIGATION:Police likely fired shots that wounded 3, killed girl after football game
Attorneys for the former officers tried multiple times to have the manslaughter charges dropped, arguing that the officers were not trying to hurt anyone in the crowd and were unfairly targeted because they were police officers. Prosecutors said they consulted with Fanta’s family before reaching the plea deal, and relatives said ending the case was necessary for them to begin healing.
“After much prayer and discussion with our family, we determined that it was in our best interest for the district attorney to ensure that the police officers take responsibility for their actions, admit to their reckless conduct endangering many and killing our Fanta,” said Bility’s uncle Abu Bility in a statement after the hearing.
‘HORRIFIC’:3 Pennsylvania officers charged in fatal shooting of 8-year-old
Contributing: The Associated Press; Danielle Camilli, Bucks County Courier Times
Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg
Story Credit: usatoday.com