There have been some significant developments in the investigation of the death of an 8-year-old girl who was killed outside a football game in Sharon Hill last month.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer has asked that an investigative grand jury be impaneled in the killing of 8-year-old Fanta Bility. Sharon Hill Borough has engaged Kelley B. Hodge of Fox, Rothschild LLP to conduct a review of the department’s policies and procedures related to police use of deadly force.
More information was revealed on the death after Stollsteimer said Monday with “near certainty” that four of the five gunshot victims on Aug. 27 “were tragically struck by shots fired by the Sharon Hill police officers.”
“The horrific events of Aug. 27th began when a group of young males engaged in a verbal confrontation that turned into gunfire on the 900 block of Coates Street, one block west of the entrance to the Academy Park High School football stadium,” the DA said. “The confrontation occurred at approximately the same time as spectators were exiting the stadium. Multiple .45-caliber and .9-millimeter shell casings have been recovered from this crime scene. My office’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is conducting an active investigation of this gunfire. CID has identified suspects and persons of interest involved in this confrontation and it is our expectation that further investigation will lead to the arrest of the individuals involved.”
Stollsteimer said that three Sharon Hill police officers were positioned opposite the area used by spectators to exit the stadium. As the gunfire erupted on Coates Street, a car turned onto Coates Street directly in front of the officers. “We have concluded that the gunfire, combined with the movement of the vehicle, precipitated responsive gunfire from the Sharon Hill police officers,” the statement read.
“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. We await final forensic reports.”
The three officers who discharged their weapons have been placed on administrative duty by the chief of the Sharon Hill Borough Police Department pending the administrative review of the department’s policies and procedures related to police use of deadly force.
Stollsteimer has also asked that an investigative grand jury be impaneled. “If the investigative grand jury believes the evidence presented by the prosecution warrants the filing of criminal charges against an individual or individuals, an investigative grand jury presentment will be issued,” he said. “It’s important to note that, under Pennsylvania law, grand jury evidence and testimony is protected by secrecy in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. In this case, the grand jury will hear testimony related to the entire incident that night on Coates Street and will, at the conclusion of its work, issue a comprehensive report as to what happened Aug. 27.”
Bility’s family, elected officials and community leaders in Delaware County have rightly demanded answers and accountability for the girl’s death.
“This tragedy will not go without consequence or claim or accountability of who is involved, regardless of who is involved,” State Sen. Anthony Williams said at a recent press conference.
Williams said he and the Delaware County Black Caucus want to assure the public that they are involved and watching the investigation closely.
“We have to be able to justify why police officers or others shot into a crowd of Black and brown children,” said the president of the NAACP Darby Area Branch.
It is too critical to public trust and transparency for the fatal shooting of Fanta Bility to be left solely to local law enforcement to investigate their officers. The grand jury inquiry and independent review are significant steps toward seeking answers and accountability in this tragic death.