The family of an eight-year-old who passed away after three cops opened fire on spectators at a football game in Philadelphia has agreed to an $11 million settlement. The decision was reached at federal court more than two years after the tragic incident.
Fanta Bility died in her mother’s arms after three officers fired gunshots sporadically in August 2021. Three officers, Sean Dolan, 27; Devon Smith, 36; and Brian Devaney, 43, were charged with manslaughter but pleaded guilty to a minimal charge under a plea bargain.
The initial report filed by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office on the incident was that a gun battle erupted among a group of teenagers in a heated argument. According to the report, what started as an altercation led to the firing of 25 shots at a car and a crowd of people leaving a football game in the small Borough near Philadelphia International Airport.
It triggered three police officers who had pitched camp nearby to return fire. However, one of the stray bullets caught up with little Fanta, thereby hitting her torso. Investigations later established that the eight-year-old girl died from one of the bullets fired by the police. Ballistic examination conducted on the bullets could not pinpoint which officers shot killed the girl.
The grand jury therefore ruled that since the three were complicit in firing 25 rounds, they should all be charged. Fanta’s mother, Tenneh Kromah, observed that no amount of money fills the vacuum created by the tragedy of her daughter’s passing on August 27, 2021. She hinted that the family’s desire is to focus on the Fanta Bility Foundation and preserving her legacy.
The family’s law firm expressed the hope the settlement would offer some form of justice and accountability for those profoundly affected by the incident. In the aftermath of the shooting incident, the three officers explained to investigators that they believed a car approaching them was the likely source of gunfire, leading them to fire back.
In November 2022, the officers pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment. As part of the plea agreement, charges of manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter were dropped, and in May, they were sentenced to five years of probation. The decision to negotiate this plea deal was made in consultation with Fanta’s family, according to prosecutors.
The settlement marks the conclusion of three separate lawsuits against the borough of Sharon Hill in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, offering a degree of closure to those affected. The borough expressed condolences to the Bility family and pledged to enhance policies to prevent similar tragedies, ensuring the safety of residents while rebuilding public trust.
Fanta attended the game with her family but tragically lost her life, leaving behind an older sister who survived an injury from the incident. Her family, part of the Guinean immigrant community, said the little girl was a kind-hearted child who always had a smile for everyone. The teenagers who fired the initial shots were charged with murder but it was later dropped.