Gunshots that killed an 8-year-old girl and wounded three other people after a suburban Philadelphia high school football game last month were fired “with near certainty” by local police officers, according to the Delaware County District Attorney.
Fanta Bility was killed on August 27 when a verbal confrontation between a group of young men escalated into gunfire near the entrance to the Academy Park High School stadium, Jack Stollsteimer, the district attorney, said in a statement Monday.
The gunfire erupted about the same time that spectators were leaving, and three police officers standing opposite the exit opened fire after a car turned onto the street “directly in front of the officers,” Stollsteimer said.
“Our initial ballistics analysis has concluded with near certainty that four of the five gunshot victims, including Fanta Bility, were tragically struck by shots fired by the Sharon Hill police officers. We await final forensic reports,” the DA said in a statement after meeting with the Bility family and their attorney.
The DA’s criminal investigation division has identified suspects involved in the initial confrontation and arrests were expected. Stollsteimer said he petitioned the county’s president judge to impanel an investigative grand jury to consider evidence and possible criminal charges against the officers.
Additionally, Stollsteimer said, the DA’s special investigations unit is reviewing the officers’ discharge of their weapons. Former Philadelphia District Attorney Kelley Hodge has been hired to investigate police department policies and the conduct of the officers involved.
The three Sharon Hill Police Department officers are on administrative leave pending the investigation.
Bruce Castor Jr., a former prosecutor who represents the Bility family, said they were “very satisfied that the district attorney’s is doing everything he should be doing.”
Castor said the shooting victims that day included Bility, her 12-year-old sister and a 13-year-old boy. They were wounded in the shooting. Castor also represents a 20-year-old woman who was a passenger in the car and injured by shattered glass.
CNN has sought comment from Hodge, the Sharon Hill Borough Police Department and the mayor.
In a statement, borough solicitor Sean Kilkenny said the mayor and borough council welcomed the decision to impanel an investigative grand jury. “The entire Borough family grieves for Fanta Billity’s family and all those affected by the Academy Park High School Football Game Shooting,” the statement said.
Stollsteimer said multiple .45 caliber and .9-millimeter shell casings were recovered from the shooting scene.
As the initial gunfire erupted near the stadium that night, Stollsteimer said, “a car turned onto Coates Street directly in front of the officers.”
“We have concluded that the gunfire, combined with the movement of the vehicle, precipitated responsive gunfire from the Sharon Hill police officers,” the DA’s statement said.