Lawyers for the three Pennsylvania officers charged with killing an 8-year-old bystander said they are considering appealing a county court judge’s decision to dismiss manslaughter charges against the men.
Former Sharon Hill Officers Brian Devaney, Patrick Dolan and Devon Smith are facing manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges. However, their lawyers argued the officers should only be charged with the misdemeanor reckless endangerment offenses because they were responding to a shootout between two teenagers, who were initially charged with the murder of the girl, Fanta Bility.
However, a Delaware County judge rejected the request on Monday, Sept. 27. If the defense lawyers lose the appeal, the officers will have to fight the charges in trial court. An appeal, however, would delay the trial.
Fanta’s family said Monday they were satisfied with the court’s decision. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said it “comports with the law.”
“I am a little happy today,” Fanta’s mother, Tennah Kromah, told reporters.
Reports show that 100 to 200 people were leaving a high school football game last August in the Philadelphia suburb when officers opened fire near a crowd. An argument between Angelo Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18, escalated into gunfire, and the officers shot 25 times at a Chevrolet Impala they believed was involved. Fanta and four other people were hit in the crossfire. The girl died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
The district attorney originally charged the teenagers with first-degree murder for Fanta’s death, but Stollsteimer later dropped the charges. He announced the charges against the officers in January, concluding “without a reasonable doubt” that the gunfire that killed the girl was from the police. A grand jury recommended the charges for the officers, who were also fired from the department. All three men are out on bail.
Stollsteimer’s office said the charges mean the officers’ actions were criminal but not intentional. However, defense attorneys argued that the teenagers should be accountable for Fanta’s death since their actions initiated the shooting. They also argued that it is impossible to determine which officer fired the fatal shot. Reports show that the bullet was badly damaged. However, prosecutors said the officers were all part of the “chain of causation” that led to the girl’s killing.
“Each of the three officers shot at the same target. We are bringing the charges against all three,” Stollsteimer told reporters.
Fanta’s family said they are grateful for the support they received as they mourn the death of the girl a little more than a year later.
“It is not easy times. We are grieving, and we are trying to do our best to get justice,” Fanta’s uncle Abu Bility said. “We know very well this won’t bring Fanta back, but we do appreciate the support we’re getting so far.”