Three Pennsylvania police officers were on Tuesday charged with manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of an eight-year-old girl following a football game in Delaware County in August last year.
According to NBC Philadelphia, the manslaughter charges brought against the three police officers comes five months after investigators said they believed the bullets that fatally struck Fanta Bility were likely discharged from the service weapons of police officers.
The minor was killed while police officers were exchanging gunfire with suspects in a vehicle after a football game. Fanta and her relatives attended the game in question, and they were outside the Academy Park High School stadium when the shooting happened. The minor’s sister and three other people also sustained injuries from the shooting.
Fanta belonged to a family that immigrated to the United States from Guinea, and the deceased minor was set to start third grade at the Sharon Hill School before she was killed.
The charges against the officers were announced by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer. A few weeks after the fatal shooting, Stollsteimer said it seemed “nearly certain” the minor was fatally struck by bullets that were fired by police officers. And following the shooting, little Fanta’s family unabatedly called on local authorities for answers.
Authorities also initially charged two men with murder in the killing of the minor. But Stollsteimer announced those charges have since been withdrawn – though they still face an aggravated assault charge in connection with the fatal shooting.
The accused officers were identified as 41-year-old Brian James Devaney, Sean Patrick Dolan, 25, and Devon E. Smith, 34. The three suspects were being held on a $500,000 bond as of Tuesday, NBC Philadelphia reported. And a grand jury brought the charges against the men after it found it justifiable to charge each of them with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and 10 counts of reckless endangerment.
“From the moment the call came in on Aug. 27, my team of investigators and prosecutors has worked tirelessly to achieve justice for Fanta and the other victims of that tragic night,” Stollsteimer said. “Today’s charges are a big step forward in that process.”
Responding to the announcement in a statement, the attorney for Fanta’s family, Bruce Castor, expressed their satisfaction with the new charges. The attorney had initially criticized local officials for their handling of the case.
“The Bility family thanks District Attorney Stollsteimer and his staff of investigators and prosecutors for following the evidence and the law in bringing forth these charges today,” Castor, who also represents another victim in the shooting, said.
“The family appreciates that the District Attorney has kept the family informed at every stage of this investigation. From the beginning he assured them that he would seek justice for Fanta, and today’s charges indicate that he’s done exactly that. They made the right call.”
The Sharon Hill Council also reportedly announced they would vote on a motion to terminate the three accused officers during a public meeting that is scheduled to be held on Thursday evening.