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‘I Do Not Believe They Are a Danger to the Community’: Judge Sentences Former Suburban Philly Cops Who Fired Shots Into Crowd That Killed 8-Year-Old Fanta Bility to 5 Years Probation 

Three former members of the Sharon Hill Police Department received five-year probation sentences last week for their role in a shooting near a high school football stadium in suburban Philadelphia in August 2021.

The deputy district attorney said the cops displayed a “horrible amount of recklessness” by shooting 25 times at a car they erroneously thought was connected with gunfire the officers heard nearby.

Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old girl who had come to the Academy Park High School for a school football team, was hit in the back by an officer’s bullet that strayed into the crowd of people leaving the game. Fanta died in her mother’s arms.

Philadelphia Officers Charged Fanta Bility
Fanta Bility was killed on Aug. 27, 2021, after officers (from left) Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan, and Devon Smith shot at a car near a crowd. (Photo: File photos)

Another Bility sister was grazed by a police bullet during the barrage. However, the then-12-year-old was not seriously injured.

Related: Teens Allegedly Involved In Gunfight Charged with Death of Black Girl Killed By Gunfire from Responding Police In Philly Suburb

The occupants of the car, who all somehow avoided being hit by the officers’ fire directed at them, had nothing to do with the shooting the officers were reacting to, which was an exchange of gunshots between two teenagers just outside the stadium exit.

After pleading guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment, Brian Devaney, Devon Smith, and Sean Dolan will serve 49 months on probation. The sentencing accounts for the 11 months the men have already served on house arrest, according to NBC News.

Each defendant took a plea deal in November 2022, which dismissed their manslaughter charges.

Fanta’s uncle Abu Bility said the family wanted “closure” and didn’t want to go through with a trial.

“The agony we feel constantly reliving the loss of our dear Fanta, who was just 8 years old when she was killed by Sharon Hill police officers, is impossible to describe with words,” Abu Bility said.

“Since her mother and siblings were witnesses to this tragic incident, they will have to live with that trauma imprinted in their memories for the rest of their lives.”

Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Margaret Amoroso said she understood the weightiness of the case. She had received a number of letters in support of the former officers: 16 for Devaney, 14 for Dolan, and 20 for Smith, and noted their records before the shooting were clean, the Daily Times reported.

“I do not believe they are a danger to the community,” the judge said, before quoting Fanta’s uncle Siddiq Kamara, saying, “This isn’t about blue lives or Black lives, this is about Fanta’s life and that her life did, in fact, matter.”

While the judge and the family tried to keep race out of the courtroom, the young girl’s death was one of the subjects central to local firefighter controversy between Delaware County’s Goodwill, Darby and Briarcliffe firehouses in February 2022.

The audio was captured from a conversation after a meeting of the houses merging. On the audio members of the department were using racial epithets to describe the fire chief and firefighters on his staff.

One comment on the audio mocked Bility’s death.

‘The Whole Thing Reeks of Injustice’: Teens Charged with 8-Year-Old Girl’s Death Are Due In Court, But ‘Reckless’ Police Gunfire Took Her Life

“A kind and loving girl, Fanta brightened the lives of everyone she met,” Lawyers for the family said, addressing the leaked audio when it was made public. “To speak of her with such disrespect shines the light of shame on those people at the firehouse making the remarks and reflects negatively on those good and true first responders who pledge their lives to the service of all members of the community.”

Devaney, Smith, and Dolan all received the same sentence, considering it could not be determined which bullet actually killed Bility.

On Friday, May 5, Deputy District Attorney Doug Rhoads said in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas that there was a “horrible amount of recklessness” displayed by the ex-cops, despite their insistence that the young girl’s death was an accident.

He noted the ripple effect of her death and how not only are her siblings, five brothers and sisters, mourning her loss but experiencing survivors’ remorse.

“For some of the siblings, I think there’s a little bit of survivors’ guilt. Nobody expects to go to a high school football game as a family and not all come home,” Rhoads said.

The defendants had an opportunity to speak directly to Fanta’s family during the 90-minute hearing.

The only Black officer, Smith, 35, a native of Jamaica, said he met Fanta on the playground while she was playing basketball with her brother.

“She would come up to my vehicle, and we would stand there and talk,” he recalled, before saying, “I am a father of three. I can’t imagine the pain and agony you feel every day.”

The brother that used to play with Fanta in the playground is now too traumatized to return without his sister.

Smith and the other two defendants apologized for their individual roles in the girl’s death. The family said they collectively accepted the officers’ apologies.

“We forgive, but we will not forget Fanta Bility,” said the mother, Tenneh Kromah.

The family has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the officers violated the children’s civil rights during the shooting. The complaint names all three defendants and the Sharon Hill Police Department.

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