Three weeks after Fanta Bility was apparently killed by police in the crossfire of a chaotic shooting after a high school football game in Sharon Hill, local and state politicians gathered Thursday at the site of her death and urged investigators to complete their probe in a timely, transparent manner.
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a Democrat whose district includes the Delaware County borough where Fanta, 8, was killed Aug. 27, said that emotions and frustrations are running high in the community — that residents are “holding on by a thread.”
“This community is asking you, civilly and respectfully,” he said, in comments addressed to District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer. “We can’t wait much longer for what this process will look like. There are answers that can be given without contaminating the work you’re doing.”
Stollsteimer did not attend the gathering. In a statement afterward, he said detectives remained “engaged in an active, intense, and thorough investigation to understand exactly what happened on that terrible night.” He also said his office’s “thoughts and prayers are with the Bility family as they continue to mourn the loss of their beloved daughter Fanta.”
He has said that there is a “high probability” that police officers in the borough fired the shots that killed the little girl and wounded her older sister as they left a football game at Academy Park High School. The three officers — who have not been identified but have been placed on administrative leave — were monitoring the crowd exiting the game when gunfire erupted on nearby Coates Street, according to the prosecutor.
The officers returned fire, striking several people in the crowd. Little other information has been released since, prompting the Thursday news conference by Williams and other members of the Delaware County Black Caucus.
Members of Fanta’s family, including her mother, Tennah Kromah, attended the event, thanking the community for its support and joining in the calls by the caucus for accountability.
One of the caucus members, NAACP Darby area president Sheila Carter, said a lack of updates was troubling.
“We have to be able to justify why a police officer, or anyone else, shot into a crowd of Black and brown children,” said Carter, a former police officer. She asserted that had the shooting happened in some places beyond their working-class community, information about the investigation would have been released sooner.
“We need to know why this happened in our community,” she said. “We do not, after three weeks, need to ask the question: ‘Why do we still not know?’”
But in asking for accountability from investigators for conduct by police that seemed “grossly negligent,” Williams and his colleagues also urged calm. “We’re not here to tear anything down,” the senator said. “We’re here to make sure justice is done.”
Williams told people outside the community not to “come with disruptions” after the investigation is concluded, and to avoid further traumatizing Fanta’s family and their neighbors.
William Felder, a member of the Sharon Hill Borough Council, said there have been plenty of “rumors, innuendos, and assumptions” swirling about the shooting. But he urged the public to be patient, while calling on investigators to recognize the desire for information.
Felder and his colleagues on council were set to vote Thursday night on a measure that would appoint former Philadelphia District Attorney Kelley Hodge as a special counsel to investigate the policies and procedures of the borough’s police department in the wake of the shooting.
“It is time for us to do better,” Felder said. “We have to become more respectful, more accountable, and bring ourselves to live as a better community.”