The family of an 8-year-old girl who was fatally shot by police officers outside a suburban Philadelphia high school football game in August filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging the officers willfully and maliciously caused her death and injured her sister.
The mother and siblings of Fanta Bility are suing the borough of Sharon Hill, Police Chief Joseph Kelly Jr. and at least three Sharon Hill officers who allegedly shot and killed Bility outside the stadium as people were exiting, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses the officers of intentional misconduct, unreasonable and excessive use of force and deliberate indifference to the child’s constitutional rights. It also alleges that the borough and its police chief have a “policy, custom or practice of ignoring the appropriate standards for use of deadly force, and/or has failed to train its officers appropriately.”
“This case seeks answers and damages for the tragic and unnecessary death of Fanta Bility and the injury and trauma inflicted on others as a result of the misconduct of Sharon Hill Police officers,” according to the lawsuit.
Bility was killed on August 27 outside the Academy Park High School stadium when a verbal altercation between a group of young men escalated into gunfire as the football game’s attendees were leaving, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said late last month. The three officers, who were standing across from the stadium exit, fired their weapons when a car turned onto the street directly in front of them, 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 September.
Bruce Castor Jr., a former prosecutor who represents the Bility family, said the shooting victims that day included Bility, her 12-year-old sister and a 13-year-old boy, who 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.
Robert DiDomenicis, the lawyer for the borough of Sharon Hill, the police chief and the three officers, declined to comment on the lawsuit due to the pending litigation.
CNN has attempted to reach Sharon Hill Mayor Harry Dunfee and the police department for comment in response to the lawsuit’s allegations but has not heard back.
The lawsuit accuses the Sharon Hill police officers of firing multiple gunshots at people in a moving car “unreasonably” and with “a specific intent to kill.” The bullets traveled “beyond the moving car into a crowd of innocent bystanders who were exiting a high school football game,” the lawsuit states.
“The occupants of car were unarmed, engaging in no criminal activity, and did not pose any threat at all to the police officers or the community at large,” the lawsuit says. “The driver of the car was in fact an innocent 19-year-old woman with … another woman of similar age in the front passenger seat.”
Stollsteimer said he petitioned the county’s president judge to impanel an investigative grand jury to consider the evidence and possible criminal charges against the officers. The DA’s office has identified the suspects in the initial confrontation and 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 officers are on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
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