More News:

September 29, 2023

Sharon Hill reaches $11 million settlement with family of Fanta Bility, the 8-year-old killed by police in 2021

The agreement also requires the borough to name a park in the girl's honor and to put its officers through regular trainings on use of force

Lawsuits Settlements
Fanta Bility Lawsuit Source/GoFundMe

Fanta Bility, 8, was killed by gunfire from Sharon Hill police on Aug. 27, 2021. A federal lawsuit filed by the family and others has been resolved with an $11 million settlement that includes commitments from the borough to increase police training and oversight.

Sharon Hill has agreed to pay $11 million to resolve a federal lawsuit stemming from the police shooting that killed Fanta Bility two years ago, borough officials said. 

Bility, 8, was fatally shot after attending an Academy Park High School football game with her family on Aug. 27, 2021. A trio of Sharon Hill police fired 25 shots at a passing car that they mistakenly believed was connected to nearby gunfire, striking Bility and three others in a crowd leaving Knight Park.

The Bility family and others had filed a federal lawsuit against the borough, the police chief and the three officers involved in the shooting. Those officers — Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney — were fired and later pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment charges. They each were sentenced in May to five years of probation. 

"While we acknowledge that there are no words or actions that can adequately address the tragic loss of Fanta Bility, we have entered into a federal settlement agreement with the Bility family and all other plaintiffs named in the claim," Sharon Hill Borough officials said in a statement. 

Sharon Hill officials agreed to name a park after Bility, form a Citizen's Advisory Board for the police department, and require police officers to undergo periodic training on the use of deadly force, the Delaware Valley Journal reported.

Bruce Castor, the Montgomery County attorney hired by the Bility family, said the settlement aims to spur reform. The family also intends to work with the state legislature to pass a law mandating more police training on the use of deadly force. 

"These non-economic damages are areas the Bility family insisted upon," Castor told the Delaware Valley Journal. "Not only to keep the memory of Fanta alive but to help improve policing in the community."

The Bility family also has created a foundation to honor Fanta's life and advocate for police reform. 

"There is no amount of money that will ever bring Fanta back or erase the horrible tragedy of what occurred on Aug. 27, 2021 from our minds," Bility's mother, Tenneh Kromah, told NBC10. "We hope to move on and focus specifically on the Fanta Bility Foundation and keeping Fanta's name and legacy alive."

Bility's death and the handling of the shooting investigation sparked outrage in the Sharon Hill community and beyond. 

The initial shots fired outside Knight Park stemmed from a dispute between two teenagers, who also had attended the game. That gunfire wounded a 13-year-old boy. 

Delaware County prosecutors first charged the two teens in connection with Bility's death. Those charges were later withdrawn and the teens were charged with lesser crimes. 

The decision to pursue charges against the officers came after a grand jury reviewed witness testimony, photos from the scene and ballistics evidence linking Bility's death and the other injuries to the way police responded to the initial shooting. 

Last year, an investigative report on the shooting, led by former Philadelphia District Attorney Kelley Hodge, was released in a heavily redacted form. It offered little insight into the changes recommended for the Sharon Hill police department. At the time, Sharon Hill Borough Council said the 55-page report's key findings were kept from the public to avoid interfering with the judicial process in the case involving the three former officers.

At the time the report was released, protesters marched in Sharon Hill to demand more transparency in the borough's investigation of the shooting. Officials have not indicated whether the full report will be made public now that the criminal and civil cases have been resolved.