Attorneys for three former Sharon Hill police officers accused in the shooting death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility after a high school football game last August asked for manslaughter charges against them to be dismissed.
In front of a Delaware County judge Monday, the defense for Brian James Devaney, 41, Sean Patrick Dolan, 25, and Devon E. Smith, 34, argued that without identifying which of three officers fired the shot that struck and killed Fanta, the prosecution does not have a case for manslaughter.
District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said it was one of the three officers’ guns that killed her, but they aren't able to identify which one, adding that the bullet that took her life was a fragment.
The judge didn't make a decision Monday, stating the case is "technical" with the interpretation of the law. She asked both sides to file written briefs over the coming weeks before deciding whether to toss or uphold the manslaughter charges for trial.
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The judge is expected to rule on the motion at a hearing on Sept. 16.
Family and supporters of Fanta Bility, 8, gathered in the Media courtroom on Monday.
"Our family is deeply troubled by the attorney's motion to dismiss two charges against the former Sharon Hill police officers," Fanta's uncle, Abu Bility, told reporters.
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Fanta Bility was killed in gunfire Aug. 27, 2021, that erupted following a high school football game in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, just south of Philadelphia. The girl and her family were caught in what was initially investigated as crossfire between local police and suspects in a passing vehicle.
A few weeks after the shooting Stollsteimer released more details that said it appeared "nearly certain" that bullets from officers' handguns killed Fanta. Four other people were hurt during the shooting.
The girl's family continued for months to press local authorities for answers.
In January, Stollsteimer announced manslaughter charges against three officers in Fanta's death. Murder charges against two young men initially charged with her death were withdrawn.
“This is an absolute tragedy," Stollsteimer said outside the courthouse Monday. "The officers shot at the wrong target and they shot into a crowd of people, and we brought charges."
The lawyer for the Bility family, Bruce Castor, said he believes it will be a tough case to prove.
"On the issue of whether there was intentional criminal conduct, it is a difficult technical matter," Castor said.