Three Pennsylvania officers charged in shooting death of girl outside football game

Three police officers were criminally charged in the fatal shooting of an 8-year-old girl outside a high school football game near Philadelphia five months ago, authorities said Tuesday.

Devon Smith, 34, Sean Dolan, 25, and Brian Devaney, 41, were each charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the Aug. 27 exchange near Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill, Delaware County District Attorney  Jack Stollsteimer announced.

The three Sharon Hill Police Department officers were on patrol as crowds were leaving a football game.

That’s when gunshots erupted on the 900 block of Coates Street and the officers “discharged their service weapons in the direction of the Academy Park football field,” according to a statement by Stollsteimer.

Fanta Bility, 8, was killed in the volley of shots.

“We have now concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that it was, in fact, shots from the officers that struck and killed Fanta Bility and injured three others,” the DA said.

8-year-old Fanta Bility.via NBC 10 Philadelphia

The three defendants were taken into custody and held in lieu of $500,000 bail, officials said.

They’re all represented by lawyers in the same Philadelphia firm and issued a joint statement denying wrongdoing.

“This is a terrible tragedy that was caused by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene in which an innocent child lost her life and others were seriously injured,” according to the defense statement.

“These three officers ran to the sounds of gunshots and risked their own lives to protect that community. These three good men are innocent and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence.”

The deadly gunfire began with an argument at the football game between Hasein Strand, 18, of Collingdale, and a minor, Stollsteimer said.

Stollsteimer said that his office had withdrawn the murder charges against the teens.

Some charges against the minor are pending, and Strand on Tuesday pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for wounding of a child bystander and illegal possession of a firearm, prosecutors said.

He’ll serve between 32 months and 64 months.

Bruce L. Castor, Jr., a lawyer representing the Bility family, thanked the DA and grand jury for bringing charges against the officers.

“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,” Castor said in a statement.

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