September 02, 2021
The 8-year-old girl who was fatally shot outside the football stadium at Academy Park High School last Friday night likely was struck by gunfire from Sharon Hill police officers, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Thursday.
Just days after Fanta Bility was memorialized by family in nearby Upper Darby, Stollsteimer revealed the findings of the preliminary investigation into the shooting, which shook the Sharon Hill community and prompted demands for justice.
Bility was one of four people believed to have been hit by responsive gunfire from police; among the others wounded was the girl's 13-year-old sister. Officers had discharged their weapons after at least one shot was fired in their direction from a group of suspects who remain at large, investigators said.
"Tragically, our investigation has now determined that there is a high probability that the responsive gunfire of the Sharon Hill Police Officers struck four victims, including the shots that killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility and wounded her sister," Stollsteimer said. "The death of Fanta and the wounding of her sister and the other students are a heartbreaking tragedy for her family, her friends, and the entire Delaware County community."
Authorities said Thursday that physical evidence collected from the scene and community witnesses established that the gunfire broke out just before 9 p.m. in the 900 block of Coates Street, nearby Knight Park on Calcon Hook Rd. A high school football game between Academy Park and visiting Pennsbury recently had ended, and most of the crowd of about 600 people already had left the stadium.
According to investigators, the first gunshots were fired just in what police initially described as a drive-by shooting in the direction of the crowd exiting the stadium. At least one person was struck and injured by that gunfire, police said.
Sharon Hill police returned fire, and Bility and her sister, along with another teenager and a fourth person, all appear to have been struck by bullets fired by officers, authorities said. Bility, who was preparing to enter third grade, died at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Lansdowne from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Police initially took three people into custody in connection with the shooting, but they have since been released and an investigation remains ongoing.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, the Sharon Hill Borough Council said Thursday afternoon. The number of officers involved and their identities were not revealed.
"Our investigation is still in its early stages and we have a lot more work to do. I am asking again for the community’s help in identifying all the individuals involved in the altercation and the gunfire on Coates Street that led to this tragedy," Stollsteimer said. "My staff and I grieve for the Bility family, who I met with again this morning, as well as the other victims. My promise to them and to the Sharon Hill community is that we will continue this investigation for as long as it takes until every question is answered and justice is done.”
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Delaware County Detective Timothy Deery at (610) 891-8030.