Pennsylvania: Former officers plead guilty in the shooting of an 8-year-old girl

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CNN
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Three former Pennsylvania police officers each pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 counts of reckless endangerment for their involvement in the death of an 8-year-old girl who was shot after she was leaving a high school football game with her family, according to a spokesperson from the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

Fanta Bility was killed in August 2021, when three police officers from Sharon Hill Borough fired shots which struck a car following an outbreak of gunfire as attendees were leaving the game, according to the Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsheimer.

“As we have endeavored to achieve justice in the midst of such a tragedy, my office has remained in close communication with the family to ensure that their feelings were heard and respected,” said Stollsheimer in a statement.

The District Attorney’s Office worked closely with the family to arrive at a conviction which “brings accountability” for Bility’s death, Stollsheimer said.

“Over this past year, the hurt caused by Sharon Hill Borough and its police department has overcome my family with tremendous grief,” Bility’s family said in a statement through spokesperson Dawn Chavous. “The agony we feel constantly reliving the loss of our dear Fanta who was just 8 years old when she was killed by Sharon Hill police officers, is impossible to describe with words.”

“Since her mother and siblings were witnesses to this tragic incident, they will have to live with that trauma imprinted in their memories for the rest of their lives,” the statement continues.

In addition to the reckless endangerment charges, former officers Brian Devaney, 42, Sean Dolan, 26, and Devon Smith were each originally charged with an additional one count of manslaughter and one count of involuntary manslaughter. The manslaughter charges were dropped as part of a plea deal negotiated by the district attorney, according to CNN affiliate WPVI.

“After much prayer and discussion with our family, we determined that it was in our best interest for the District Attorney to ensure that the police officers take responsibility for their actions, admit to their reckless conduct endangering many, and killing our Fanta,” the family statement added. “We pray that as a result of the police officers being held accountable, we can as a family and as a community, finally have some closure and begin the healing process,” the statement from Bility’s family adds.

All three officers were fired earlier this year after being charged in the fatal shooting.

In the statement, Bility’s family says they support the District Attorney’s plea agreement with the officers but believe Sharon Hill Borough should also be held accountable for what they describe as a failure to properly train officers before the use of deadly force.

“We need to ensure all officers are properly trained so no one ever has to experience the horror and tremendous loss and pain that we continue to feel on a daily basis,” the family statement reads.

CNN has reached out to attorneys representing Devaney, Dolan and Smith. A sentencing hearing for the three men is scheduled for January 12, 2023.