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Police likely killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility when returning fire outside a Delco school football game, DA says

District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer described the series of events as “chaotic and horrific.” He said the investigation is “in its early stages.”

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

Police officers probably fired the shots that killed 8-year-old Fanta Bility last week at a Delaware County high school football game when they fired at an unidentified gunman who had been shooting out of a crowd, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Thursday.

Stollsteimer also said in a statement that a preliminary investigation has determined that three Sharon Hill officers — whom he did not name — likely shot and wounded three other people during the incident last Friday outside Academy Park High School, including Fanta’s older sister, a cheerleader who suffered a graze wound while leaving the stadium.

Still, even as Stollsteimer disclosed new details about the case, he said the probe has not yet identified the gunman who authorities believe started the episode by opening fire during a “chaotic and horrific” scene outside the stadium along Coates Street.

Stollsteimer acknowledged that authorities have “a lot more work to do,” and he did not announce charges for the officers or anyone else connected to the case.

“The death of Fanta and the wounding of her sister and the other students are a heartbreaking tragedy for her family, her friends, and the entire Delaware County community,” Stollsteimer said.

The shooting happened just after a game between Academy Park and Pennsbury High School. It has since led to an outpouring of emotion for Fanta, a rising third grader who had gone to support her sister and a cousin who was playing in the game.

She was one of six children, and on Thursday her relatives were playing in the late-summer heat outside their Sharon Hill home. They declined to comment. Fanta’s older sister, Mamasa — who suffered the graze wound — was there and seemed in fine spirits while recovering.

The Bility family’s attorney, Bruce L. Castor Jr., said that they were still “shocked and in deep mourning” and that the loss of Fanta — whom he called “a bright light” — has left the extended family numb while awaiting a determination about whether anyone will be charged.

The Bility family has appreciated the clear, open line of communication with Stollsteimer, Castor said, including a meeting Stollsteimer had with them Thursday morning.

As for the idea of charging the officers, “there’s mixed feelings,” said Castor, of the Center City firm van der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin.

“We don’t want police officers to be in the position where they have to discharge their weapons,” he said. “But we’ll have to see what happened here and go from there.”

Calls to the Sharon Hill Police Department’s headquarters were not answered Thursday afternoon. Later Thursday, the Borough Council released a statement noting that its police department is cooperating with the probe and that officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave.

Joseph Fitzgerald, president of the Delaware County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27, said the union’s “thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Fanta Bility, her sister and the two other victims.”

“Our officers are fully cooperating with this ongoing investigation,” he added.

Stollsteimer asked anyone with information about the incident to speak with police and help identify the gunman, who he said opened fire after the game, sending spectators running and diving for cover before police fired back.

Stollsteimer said Thursday that he promised the Bility family “we will continue this investigation for as long as it takes until every question is answered and justice is done.”