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November 10, 2021

Two teens charged for roles in Sharon Hill shootout before police killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility

A grand jury will form this month to review whether cops were justified in using deadly force that struck bystanders

Investigations Shootings
Fanta Bility Four Teens Source/GoFundeMe

Fanta Bility, 8, was fatally shot by gunfire from Sharon Hill police as she left a high school football game with her family on Aug. 27, 2021. Two people have now been charged in her death due to their alleged involvement in a shootout that prompted responsive gunfire from Sharon Hill police that night. The officers' conduct will be reviewed by a grand jury.

Two teenagers are facing murder charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Fanta Bility, the 8-year-old girl who was killed by police gunfire in Sharon Hill after attending a high school football game in late August.

Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, of Sharon Hill, and Hasein Strand, 18, of Collingdale, allegedly were involved in a shootout that prompted three Sharon Hill police officers to open fire in the area of Knight Park on Aug. 27, killing Bility and wounding several others. Ford has been arrested and Strand is still being sought by law enforcement, prosecutors said Wednesday.

In the months since the incident, public statements about the case from the Delaware County District Attorney's Office have largely focused on the investigation into the officers involved in the shooting. Though authorities concluded with near certainty that the girl was killed by police gunfire, proscutors indicated that arrests were forthcoming for suspects linked to the initial dispute.

The deadly shooting happened just before 9 p.m. in the area outside the stadium exit on Calcon Hook Road. Fans who attended the game between Academy Park High School and visiting Pennsbury High School were still leaving the stadium, including Bility and her family.

A preliminary investigation revealed that three Sharon Hill police officers fired their weapons in response to a group of young men who were involved in an altercation one block away from the stadium entrance, along the 900 block of Coates Street.

When gunshots were fired during that dispute, the three Sharon Hill police officers drew their weapons and opened fire as a vehicle turned onto Coates Street, police said.

Five people were shot during the exchange of bullets. Bility was shot in the back and died at the scene in her mother's arms. Her 13-year-old sister, Mawatta, also suffered a gunshot wound.

In a pair of criminal affidavits for Ford and Strand, police said the two had gotten into a verbal dispute toward the end of the football game as they each left the stadium with a group of friends.

One witness told investigators that Ford was on Coates St. and had flashed a handgun in his waist band while leaving the stadium. The witness further told police that Ford made verbal threats against others on the street, including Strand.

After the shootout, Strand allegedly told another witness that he had gone to his vehicle with his brothers to retreive his own weapon before returning to Coates St. to confront Ford.

Of the five total shooting victims that night, only one appears to have been injured by gunfire from the initial altercation between Ford and Strand, police said.

That victim told police that he had been standing at the intersection of Coates St. and Kenny Ave. when he saw a large crowd. A dark vehicle pulled up to the intersection and the victim was suddenly struck by gunfire that he heard as the car approached him.

Investigators said the victim's injuries were consistent with wounds from rounds fired by a 9mm weapon Strand allegedly possessed. A ballistics analysis found that at least seven shots were fired by Ford and Strand on Coates St.

Sharon Hill police were located about 140 feet away from the first shooting victim on the south side of Coates St. when they drew their weapons and opened fire in the direction of the turning vehicle, striking the four other victims that night, investigators said.

Bility, who was shot in the torso, was rushed to Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital by police, but could not be saved. 

"My office has determined that Ford and Strand should both be held criminally liable for the murder of Fanta Bility, as well as for the wounding of all of the bystanders,” said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer. "The killing of Fanta Bility was a tragedy not just for her family, but for the entire Delaware County community. Today’s arrests begin the criminal process for those that initiated the deadly events of August 27th by shooting to kill at a high school football game."

The D.A.'s office is continuing a comprehensive review of the conduct of Sharon Hill police on the night of the shooting. An investigating Grand Jury composed of Delaware County residents will be seated on Nov. 18 to review the case and determine whether the police officers were justified in their use of deadly force, or whether they also should be held criminally responsible for Bility's death. 

Bility's family filed a federal lawsuit last month against Sharon Hill Borough, the police chief and the three officers who opened fire on the night of the shooting. The family contends that the officers acted recklessly and displayed a lack of proper training in how to safely handle such incidents without putting innocent bystanders at risk.

Ford will be arraigned and transferred to the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, where he will be held without bond.