Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Two teens were charged with murder in the police shooting that killed an 8-year-old girl at a high school football game

Angelo Ford and Hasein Strand have been charged with first-degree murder and related offenses.

A relative holds up a cell phone with a photo of Fanta Bility. Fanta, 8, was killed by police in Sharon Hill during a shooting on Aug. 27.
A relative holds up a cell phone with a photo of Fanta Bility. Fanta, 8, was killed by police in Sharon Hill during a shooting on Aug. 27.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Two teenagers who prosecutors say started a gunfight outside a Sharon Hill high school football game that led to the fatal police shooting of 8-year-old Fanta Bility in August have been charged with murder in connection with her death.

Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18, face first-degree murder, aggravated-assault, and gun charges in the Aug. 27 shooting, according to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

Ford remains in custody, denied bail. It was unclear if he had hired an attorney. Strand had not been arrested as of Wednesday and was being sought by U.S. Marshals, according to prosecutors.

Stollsteimer has said Fanta was struck by a bullet fired by one of three Sharon Hill police officers who were monitoring the crowd leaving Academy Park High School after the season-opening football game against Pennsbury. It remains unclear which officer fired the shot that killed her, but all three have told investigators they opened fire on a vehicle they mistakenly believed was involved in the shooting between Ford and Strand, which prosecutors said took place about a block from the stadium.

Fanta was struck once in the back and pronounced dead at the scene. Three other people were wounded by the gunfire from police, including her older sister.

The legal basis for charging the two teens “is very simple,” First Assistant District Attorney Tanner Rouse said in a statement. “They were attempting to kill one another that night, and as a direct result a little girl is dead.”

An investigative grand jury will be impaneled Nov. 18 to begin deciding whether the officers will face criminal charges, according to Stollsteimer.

Fanta’s shooting has drawn national attention and local protest marches, with activists and state legislators calling for the officers to be fired and criminally prosecuted. Sharon Hill’s borough council has hired attorney Kelley Hodge to lead an internal investigation into the police department’s training policies, work that will likely begin after the grand jury completes its probe.

The Bility family’s attorney, Bruce Castor, said Wednesday that the decision to charge the two teens was “a gutsy move” but said he believes that it will be difficult to convict them of murder.

Ultimately, Castor said, the family’s attention is focused elsewhere.

“I want the focus to remain on the Sharon Hill police officers whose negligent and reckless behavior in reacting as they did is what killed Fanta Bility,” said Castor, who has sued the officers and the police department. “From the point of view of the Bility family, these officers killed Fanta, and they need to be held accountable for that, and those responsible for their supervision and training need to be held accountable for that.”

Stollsteimer said Wednesday that charges against Ford and Strand are an “important step in [his] office’s continuing effort to seek justice for Fanta.”

» READ MORE: The family of a girl killed at a Delaware County football game mourn her at her funeral — and also ask for justice

“The killing of Fanta Bility was a tragedy not just for her family, but for the entire Delaware County community,” said Stollsteimer. “Today’s arrests begin the criminal process for those that initiated the deadly events of August 27th by shooting to kill at a high school football game. Still, the pursuit of justice for Fanta demands that my office continue its comprehensive review of the actions of all parties involved in the tragic chain of events.”

In charging the two teens with murder, prosecutors are relying on the legal concept of transferred intent — the idea that if a person intends to harm someone, but inadvertently harms someone else instead, that is a crime, according to Rouse.

“We recognize that both the facts and the law in this case are complicated, and we know that our work is not done, which is why the investigation into the Officers’ actions and the appropriateness of their response is still very much ongoing,” he said in the statement.

Witnesses told police Ford and Strand were on opposite sides of a conflict between two groups of teenagers during the football game, according to the affidavit of probable cause for their arrests.

It was unclear what the argument was about, but it apparently escalated as the groups were walking down a ramp to leave the stadium, the affidavit said. As the groups left, the document said, Ford lifted up his shirt to display a handgun and threatened Strand and his friends.

Strand then went to a car parked nearby and retrieved a 9mm handgun, according to the affidavit. He walked back toward Ford, who shot at him as they stood on the 900 block of Coates Street, the document said. Strand returned fire, and in the hail of bullets, an unidentified victim was hit in his side, according to police.

Strand allegedly fired in the direction of the three Sharon Hill police officers monitoring the crowd about 140 feet away from the gunfight. The officers returned fire, police said, striking a vehicle that had been heading down Coates Street toward them. Their bullets struck the vehicle, and some went beyond it, striking Fanta, her older sister, and two other people walking near them as they left the stadium, authorities said.

The car, police later learned, had not been involved in the earlier shooting. Castor, who is also representing the car’s occupants, has said they were recent alumni of Academy Park who were there to watch the football game.