A federal lawsuit filed by the family of an 8-year-old girl killed by police at a football game in Sharon Hill incorrectly identified one of the officers involved in the shooting, sources said Wednesday.
The suit erred in saying John Scanlan III fired into a crowd after responding to a reported shooting on the night Fanta Bility was struck by gunfire, according to law enforcement sources. They said Scanlan was at the scene of the shooting, but only to help render first aid to the girl after she was shot.
Scanlan did not respond to requests for comment. His lawyer, Robert DiDomenicis, declined to comment Wednesday.
Bruce L. Castor, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the child’s family, amended the complaint Wednesday to remove Scanlan’s name after he said he came to doubt the sources who told him the officer had been among those who fired
“I no longer have the level of certainty and have changed the pleading to ‘John Doe’ unidentified police officers,” Castor said in a statement. “Just like everyone else, the authorities are being very closed mouthed with us as well.”
Fanta was struck by gunfire as she and her family were leaving a football game at Academy Park High School. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer has said three officers fired at a car after responding to reports of a shooting about a block away, killing Fanta and injuring four others, including her older sister, Mawatta.
Investigators said the gunfire that drew police to the scene stemmed from an argument among a group of young men on the 900 block of Coates Street, one block west of the football stadium.
In the lawsuit, Castor said the officers were “deliberately indifferent and reckless” in firing into a crowd after responding to a reported shooting, and the borough and its police chief had given the officers “tacit approval” to behave in that manner.
Prosecutors have not named the officers, citing a grand jury investigation into whether criminal charges should be filed in the case. A spokesperson for Stollsteimer declined to comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit also named Officer Devon Smith as being involved in the shooting but did not identify a third officer who authorities say fired shots that day. Sources have said that officer is a rookie with less than a year’s experience.
Attempts to contact Smith were unsuccessful Wednesday.
The suit erred in naming Joseph J. Kelly as the borough’s police chief. He retired in 2008 and was replaced by Chief Richard Herron. Castor, a former Montgomery County district attorney and county commissioner who represented former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial, amended the lawsuit Wednesday to replace Kelly with Herron.
Herron did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but he has offered condolences to the family and said the department is fully cooperating with an internal investigation commissioned by borough officials, as well as the grand jury inquiry.