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September 28, 2021

Grand jury to investigate whether Sharon Hill cops are criminally responsible for Fanta Bility's death

The 8-year-old girl likely was killed by police gunfire during an exchange outside the Academy Park football stadium, D.A. says

Investigations Shootings
Fanta Bility Delco DA Source/GoFundMe

Fanta Bility, 8, was shot and killed in Sharon Hill on Aug. 27 after she and her family attended a high school football game. Investigators in Delaware County now believe Bility and several others were struck by gunfire from police, who were responding to shots fired by others.

Gunfire from Sharon Hill police officers likely killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility and injured three other victims during a shooting outside a high school football game in Delaware County last month, a ballistics analysis found. 

District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer has now petitioned for a grand jury to be empaneled to investigate the police officers' use of deadly force to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. 

The Aug. 27 incident happened just before 9 p.m. in the area of Knight Park, where Academy Park High School and visiting Pennsbury High School had just wrapped up a football game and fans in attendance were leaving the stadium on Calcon Hook Road.

A preliminary investigation revealed that a group of young men had an altercation that escalated into gunshots one block west of the stadium entrance, along the 900 block of Coates Street. Three Sharon Hill police officers positioned across from the stadium exit drew their weapons and opened fire when a vehicle turned onto Coates Street directly in front of them, investigators said.

Five people were shot in the chaotic exchange. Multiple .45 caliber and .9-millimeter shell casings were recovered at the scene.

"Our initial ballistics analysis has concluded with near certainty that four of the five gunshot victims, including Fanta Bility, were tragically struck by shots fired by the Sharon Hill police officers," Stollsteimer said. "We await final forensic reports."

The D.A.'s Office already had said earlier this month that police gunfire was likely responsible for Bility's death and the injuries suffered by three other victims, including Bility's 13-year-old sister.

Based on the additional evidence reviewed in recent weeks, the D.A.'s special investigations unit is conducting a review of the legality of the police officers' use of firearms. The three officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Additionally, Sharon Hill borough has hired a law firm to conduct an administrative review of the Sharon Hill Police Department policies and procedures related to police use of deadly force.

Authorities also have identified suspects and persons of interest involved in the initial gunfire on Coates Street, but did not provide any names.

"It is our expectation that further investigation will lead to the arrest of the individuals involved," Stollsteimer said.

Based on the apparent role of police gunfire in Bility's death and the injuries suffered by three other victims, Stollsteimer said his office has sought a grand jury specifically to review the conduct of the Sharon Hill police officers.

The D.A. estimated the grand jury investigation could take "weeks if not months" to complete, during which time all evidence and testimony will be protected by secrecy.

Bility was memorialized earlier this month in Upper Darby.

"I understand the community's desire for closure but ask instead for continued patience as we work to provide justice and accountability for the all the victims of this tragedy," Stollsteimer said.