On one-way Coates Street behind Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill, the tributes piled up Sunday: A teddy bear, big as a child. A dozen summer-flower bouquets. A Mother of Guadalupe candle. A smiley balloon, still half-inflated under the gray sky. A stuffed cow, a stuffed puppy, and a cotton candy-colored Kiwi the Bird, clipped to the chain-link fence.
The memorials were for a 7-year-old named Fanta, killed Friday night leaving a football game in a drive-by shooting that wounded two others, including Fanta’s 12-year-old sister, according to an interview their mother gave to 6ABC. Authorities have not charged anyone in the shootings, though family and friends of the victims have said they were told at least two people were detained.
The shootings shocked residents, many of whom moved to this Delaware County borough seeking a quieter place to raise their kids, from West Philadelphia and nearby towns, and from West Africa during the regional upheavals of the 1990s.
Deanna Bankston said she was leaving after the game with her father and two daughters, one an Academy Park cheerleader. At first Bankston thought the bursting sounds might be fireworks, celebrating Academy’s season-opening 42-0 route over Pennsbury.
Then a bullet whizzed by, narrowly missing her ear, she said. “I said ‘This is gunshots!’” said Bankston, herself an Academy Park graduate. “I never saw anything like that here.”
Then she saw the little girl on the ground, bleeding fast from a gunshot to the neck. “Blood everywhere.” The girl’s mother knelt to tend to her while Bankston quickly checked her own children. They were shaken but all right, though police held her 2004 Toyota with the rest of the crime scene until morning.
Carolyn Tall says her 16-year-old daughter called from the game and told her, “Mom, they’re shooting!”
Tall says she was inclined to discount the report — “Stuff happens here, but they usually sweep it under the rug” — until she saw the news report on 6ABC, where grieving mother Tennah Kromah identified the victim as her daughter, Fanta Bility. She did not identify the other daughter who also was shot, but told 6ABC she is expected to recover.
Efforts by The Inquirer to reach the family Sunday were not successful.
“You can’t hide a thing like this,” Tall said, as she contemplated the memorial the next day. “My daughter’s 16. She thinks nothing can touch her. But that little girl that was killed was here last night. They took her last picture sitting right there in those stands. In Sharon Hill! Are we becoming Philadelphia?”
At the high school, students from Southeast Delco School District and other parts of Delaware County visited through the afternoon to meet with counselors and talk about the school shooting. Cheerleaders and friends stood in a circle outside the door, recalling how they were rushed from the field by staff.
School employees directed questions to the district superintendent, Brenda G. Wynder, who was inside at a meeting and didn’t respond to an interview request. District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer’s office offered no updates Sunday. On Saturday it had issued a brief statement calling the shooting a “horrific and tragic incident” and said it would “update the community when appropriate.”
Sharon Hill resident Tracey Turner said she contacted one of Fanta’s uncles and offered to organize a community vigil, to help neighbors grieve. She said she was told family members were “very appreciative of all the love,” but that the immigrant Muslim family’s religious customs were different, and they politely declined.
So Turner said she was directing neighbors to a GoFundMe site set up by one of Fanta’s uncles, which features pictures of the child and family members and asks for help paying the family’s expenses from the shootings. By 8 p.m. Sunday $5,000 — the original goal — had been raised.