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Police shot 8-year-old Fanta Bility and 3 others, initial analysis shows with ‘near certainty,’ Delco DA says

District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said he has petitioned a judge to empanel a grand jury to consider evidence and possible criminal charges.

A relative holds up a cell phone with a photo of Fanta Bility.
A relative holds up a cell phone with a photo of Fanta Bility.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

An “initial ballistics analysis” has concluded with “near certainty” that police officers fired the gunshots that killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility and wounded three other people outside a high school football game in Sharon Hill last month, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced Monday.

Stollsteimer said he has petitioned the Delaware County president judge to impanel an investigative grand jury to consider evidence and possible criminal charges.

The district attorney had previously said that there was a “high probability” that police fatally wounded Bility on Aug. 27.

He said in a statement that his office’s Special Investigations Unit was “conducting a review of the legality” of the discharge of weapons, and the three officers who fired their guns had been placed on administrative duties.

Stollsteimer said he met earlier Monday with Bility’s family “to provide an update on the significant progress my team of prosecutors and detectives has made into the events of that terrible night.”

Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former longtime prosecutor who represents the Bility family, said in an interview that he and the family met with Stollsteimer for about an hour and a half and they were satisfied that Stollsteimer was “playing it straight, by the book, and doing everything I would do.”

A fifth person also was shot that night a month ago, Stollsteimer said. Bility’s older sister was shot that night, and Stollsteimer previously said that she, too, was among those police wounded.

Officials have not publicly named the Sharon Hill police officers involved in the shooting, and community leaders have called for more information about the incident and investigation.

The officers were responding to gunfire that erupted after the football game had concluded at Academy Park High School and spectators were exiting the stadium.

Stollsteimer said a group of young males were involved in an argument that escalated into a shooting on the 900 block of Coates Street, one block west of the entrance.

Shell casings were recovered from the crime scene and investigators had “identified suspects and persons of interest involved in this confrontation and it is our expectation that further investigation will lead to the arrest of the individuals involved,” Stollsteimer said.

The three officers were located in an area opposite to where the spectators were exiting, and when the gunfire occurred, a car turned onto a street directly in front of the officers, Stollsteimer said.

“We have concluded that the gunfire, combined with the movement of the vehicle, precipitated responsive gunfire from the Sharon Hill police officers,” he said.

Castor, who served previously as district attorney in Montgomery County and as acting Pennsylvania Attorney General, said that while the Bility family is satisfied with Stollsteimer’s efforts so far, the same could not be said of leadership in Sharon Hill.

The borough’s leaders, including the police chief, have not been forthcoming with explanations and need to assure the public “that there are not mad men running around Sharon Hill shooting guns into crowds of people,” Castor said.

Castor said he also represents the family of a 13-year-old boy who was injured, as well as a 20-year-old female passenger in the car that the officers fired at. Castor said that woman and a young adult female who was driving were injured by shattered glass from the police gunfire. He said he was “very confident” the women in the car were not involved in the initial shooting.

A grand jury will hear testimony “related to the entire incident that night on Coates Street and will, at the conclusion of its work, issue a comprehensive report as to what happened,” Stollsteimer said.

Sharon Hill Borough has retained a lawyer, Kelley B. Hodge of Fox, Rothschild LLP, to conduct an administrative review of the Sharon Hill Police Department policies and procedures related to police use of deadly force, Stollsteimer said.

Hodge briefly served as the Philadelphia District Attorney after Seth Williams stepped down.