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Family slams heavily redacted report on fatal police shooting of 8-year-old girl

family-slams-heavily-redacted-report-on-fatal-police-shooting-of-8-year-old-girl
Delaware County District Attorney’s Office

(SHARON HILL, Pa.) — The family of Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old girl who was fatally shot by police last year, is expressing outrage over the release of a heavily redacted report about their daughter’s shooting in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.

The highly anticipated report, which outlines the findings of an independent investigation into the police policies and procedures related to the shooting, was released by the Sharon Hill Borough Council on Friday but many of its findings and recommendations were redacted.

Bruce Castor, the attorney for Fanta’s family, told ABC News in a statement on Sunday that the redacted report is “unacceptable” and “an insult to the memory of Fanta.”

“The heavily edited report raises more questions in the minds of the family and the public than it answers,” Castor said.

“The world will eventually learn how Sharon Hill Borough officials failed to make certain its police trained under realistic scenarios and understood fully when deadly force is permitted under the law and when it is not,” he added.

Courtney Richardson, the Sharon Hill Borough solicitor, defended withholding the information, telling ABC News in a statement that the Sharon Hill Borough Council redacted information to protect the ongoing investigation.

“Council has only redacted conclusions and recommendations of Special Counsel in the interest of justice, considering the active litigation in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,” Richardson said.

Fanta was shot while exiting a football game with her family at Academy Park High School on Aug. 27, 2021, when officers Brian Devaney, Devon Smith and Sean Dolan fired their weapons toward the crowd after two teens opened fire in a personal dispute close to the high school, according to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

The three officers were each charged with 12 criminal counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

“We have now concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that it was, in fact, shots from the officers that struck and killed Fanta Bility and injured three others,” Stollsteimer said in a press release announcing the charges.

“This is a terrible tragedy that was caused by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene in which an innocent child lost her life and others were seriously injured,” Raymond Driscoll, Steven Patton and Charles Gibbs, the lawyers for the three officers, said in a joint statement after the charges were announced. “These three officers ran to the sound of gunshots and risked their own lives to protect that community. These three good men are innocent, and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence.”

Shortly after the charges were announced, the Sharon Hill Borough Council voted on Jan. 21 in favor of terminating the three officers from their positions at the Sharon Hill Police Department.

The Sharon Hill Borough Council appointed Kelley Hodge and the law firm Fox-Rothschild LLP in September 2021 as special counsel to investigate policies and procedures surrounding the shooting.

The redacted report is the conclusion of that nine-month investigation and comes after attorneys for the three officers filed a motion last week to drop the voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges against the officers, according to Philadelphia ABC affiliate WPVI-TV.

Asked about the motion to dismiss the charges, Castor told ABC News that the family wants the DA’s office to “do its best to obtain convictions holding the police officers criminally accountable for their actions.”

“No mater how ineptly they were trained, these officers intentionally unleashed deadly force when such force was not authorized by law injuring several people and killing a little girl,” Castor said.

ABC News has reached out to the attorneys representing the three former officers but requests for comment were not immediately returned.

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