Three fired police officers charged with misdemeanors in the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl outside a high school football game near Philadelphia have been sentenced to five years’ probation. House arrest.
An investigation found that as spectators were leaving a football game in August 2021, police inadvertently fired 25 rounds at a vehicle they mistakenly believed to be involved in a shooting a block away. A total of four people were shot by police officers passing the car.
Addressing the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas on Friday, District Attorney Doug Rhoads said the officers displayed “horrible negligence” even though the results were unexpected.
Former Sharon Hill officers Brian Devaney, Devon Smith and Sean Dolan pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment in a plea agreement that dismissed the murder charges brought against them in November. Authorities said they could not identify the officer who shot Fanta Bibility.
Fanta and her mother went to a play at Academy Park High School to see her sister perform as a cheerleader. The sisters, who were 12 at the time, were shot dead by the police. Fanta died in her mother’s arms.
“I think there’s a little bit of survivor’s guilt in some of the siblings,” Rhoads said. “Nobody expects a family to go to a high school football game together and not everyone comes home.”
Friday’s ruling capped an emotional 90-minute hearing in which the defendants spoke directly with the extended families of those who had moved to the United States from war-torn Liberia in search of safety.
Smith, 35, from Jamaica, said Fanta and her younger brother met at a playground while they were playing basketball and later spoke to him several times while on patrol.
Smith told the family, “She came over to my car and we were standing there talking.” “I’m a father of three. You can’t imagine the pain and suffering I feel every day.”
The family said the ongoing grief took many forms. My brother doesn’t want to go to the playground anymore.
Nonetheless, he accepted the police apology, apologized, and stayed in the courtroom hugging all three and wishing them well.
“We forgive, but we will not forget Fanta Bbility.” Mother Tanne Kromah said. The family has a pending federal lawsuit against the defendants and the police department.
But he doesn’t think the case fits into the post-2020 national narrative about race and policing. Delaware County Judge Margaret J. Amoroso commended both sides for not making rhetoric about the case.
Rhoads said of the family, “It’s not about blue lives or black lives, it’s about Fanta’s life and her life really matters”.
Officials said they opened fire after seeing shots fired over their heads.
“Putting me in front of your honor was a split decision,” said Devani, 43, who has served as a school resource officer at Academy Parks since 2013.
Investigators said that he was not wearing a body camera that night and that the other two officers had not turned on their cameras.
The handling of the case initially sparked outrage and protests from the black community and others. That’s because District Attorney Jack Stollstheimer has charged two black teens with the deaths of children after shooting them a block away. Those charges were later dropped. After a grand jury investigation, the officers were charged with felonious counts of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
Last year, protesters signed on and demanded transparency when the borough council, after a nine-month independent investigation, released a heavily edited report on police department policies and procedures that cost them more than $76,000, CBS Philadelphia reported. .
Dolan, 26, joined the Sharon Hill unit just 10 days before graduating from the state police academy. He is currently in the heating and cooling business.
“I tried my best to do the right thing and failed. I’m very sorry for that,” said Dolan, who like Devaney comes from a family of police officers.
Dozens of family and friends went to the court to support the police.
Bruce Castor, the attorney representing the Bielty family, told CBS News last year that the little girl was “a bright, bright, shining light that made people happy just by looking at her. And to leave her was just a terrible, terrible tragedy.” ” ,