Officers to stand trial for girl’s death after soccer match

Three former police officers accused of killing a young girl after firing 25 shots at a car will be tried for manslaughter.

PHILADELPHIA — Three former police officers charged with killing a young girl after firing 25 shots at a moving car as a nearby crowd left a high school football game will face trial for manslaughter, a judge ruled Monday from suburban Philadelphia.

Prosecutors allege Sharon Hill officers negligently fired at a car they mistakenly believed was involved in gunfire that erupted late in the game. Four people were shot dead by police outside the stadium, including future third year student Fanta Bility.

Ballistics tests could not determine which officer fired the shot that killed her, but a grand jury recommended that all three be charged in her death in August 2021. Brian Devaney, 41, Devon Smith, 34 and Sean Dolan, 25 have been accused in January with intentional homicide, manslaughter and several counts of reckless endangerment.

Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Margaret Amoroso confirmed all charges in Monday’s hearing, according to Margie McAboy, spokeswoman for District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

Their lawyers accused prosecutors of bowing to political pressure to pursue the charges. They did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment on Monday.

Officers told investigators they believed the car heading towards them was the likely source of the shots, prompting them to return fire.

Bility had attended the game with his mother and an older sister who was also shot but survived. Her family, who are from an immigrant community from Guinea, described her as a sweet child who had a smile for everyone.

The officers were later fired by the Sharon Hill Council, a small borough near Philadelphia International Airport. Devaney was not wearing a body camera at the time, while Dolan and Smith did not turn on theirs, investigators said.

The chaotic scene unfolded after two teenagers argued and exchanged gunfire outside the Academy Park High School stadium. The district attorney initially charged the teens with murder for the child’s death, but those charges were later dismissed.

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Elna M. Lemons