Justice for 8-year-old Fanta Bility, who died at the hands of police, begins in court on Jan. 13, but the people charged with murdering her did not kill her. The details surrounding the case have many community members in the Philadelphia area, including activist Jamal Johnson, concerned police may escape culpability for the girl’s death.
“Hopefully, these police officers can be held accountable,” Johnson said in reaction to where the case stands now.
Authorities say on the night of Aug. 27, 2021, in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, Angelo Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 19, got into an argument at a high school football game and as the game was ending amid an exodus of spectators leaving the stadium, tension between Ford and Strand culminated in the two exchanging gunfire toward each other.
Sharon Hill Police officers at the football stadium responded to the gunfire a block away on a nearby street.
As officers arrived at the location of the shootout, they saw a car drive by, and the officers believed the passing car contained suspects in the shooting, resulting in them opening fire toward the car. Amid the gunfire, five people were wounded by gunshots and one of the five gunshot victims was Fanta Bility.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer says four of the five people wounded were hit by police bullets.
“A second set of DAs and detectives are working on whether the police should be arrested and charged for their recklessness and failure to follow their training and understanding you don’t shoot at a moving car and you definitely don’t shoot at a moving car unless you’re sure there are bad guys inside fleeing a felony,” said Bruce Castor, the attorney for Bility’s family.
Castor says the bullet that killed Bility was badly damaged, which complicates the investigation for investigators trying to learn which of the three officers’ guns the fatal bullet came from.
The district attorney is charging Ford and Strand with murder in Bility’s death as well as wounding all the bystanders because he says their actions, “initiated the deadly events.”
“That’s a tough sell, these two guys are shooting at one another, and the cops make a mistake and as a result of that somebody dies, that’s a tough sell those two kids are now involved in a murder, but the DA thinks he can prove that,” Castor said of the decision to prosecute Ford and Strand for murder.
Activists like Johnson do not agree with the DA’s decision to hold the teenagers responsible for the actions of the police. “The whole thing just smells and reeks of injustice,” said Johnson.
The outcome of Ford and Strand’s Jan. 13 preliminary hearing will show Bility’s family and the community whether the murder charge against the teenagers will stick.
A grand jury will determine if the officers involved will be held responsible. The officers involved have been placed on administrative duties and their names have not been released.
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