Sharon Hill’s borough council fires the officers charged with killing Fanta Bility
The councilmembers voted to fire the three officers at their meeting Thursday night.
The Sharon Hill Borough Council voted Thursday night to fire the three police officers charged with shooting and killing 8-year-old Fanta Bility at a football game in August.
The vote came during a standing-room-only meeting in which some expressed support for the officers, while others voiced their outrage and called for reforms.
The measures to fire the officers were considered individually by the council, and each one passed on a 6-1 vote. Councilmember Sandra Holcombe was the lone dissenter.
The three Sharon Hill police officers who were fired, Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney, did not attend the council meeting, and neither did their lawyers. A few in the audience, however, spoke in their defense.
On Tuesday, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office charged each with manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment after a grand jury investigation that took three months.
On Aug. 27 outside Academy Park High School’s football stadium, the officers fired their weapons at a vehicle they mistakenly believed was involved in a nearby shooting, wounding the car’s occupants, as well as four other people, including Fanta. She died in her mother’s arms.
Attorneys for the officers have said that they did nothing wrong and that prosecutors unfairly targeted them for doing their jobs.
”If they look at us and they just fire into a crowd, there’s a problem with that, especially if there’s no one firing at them,” said Charles Pearson-Bey, a borough resident. “We do have good police officers in our borough, but we have to be conscious of what they do in our borough.”
Some attendees said they supported the officers, and were frustrated by their treatment.
Tom Hendricks told the council that he knows two of the officers personally, and that while Fanta’s death was a tragedy, it was also a terrible mistake.
“These officers didn’t come to work that day saying ‘I’m gonna kill someone,’” he said. “Their lives will be messed up forever.”
Smith, 34, and Devaney, 41, were full-time officers who joined the department in 2015 and 2005, respectively. Dolan, 25, was a part-time officer who was hired in July.
The borough has hired former interim Philadelphia District Attorney Kelley Hodge to examine the police department’s training policies and procedures.
All three officers appeared to have violated the department’s current use-of-force policy, which prohibits them from using deadly force when there’s a chance bystanders will be injured, and forbids officers from firing at moving vehicles except in self-defense or in defense of another.