Police officers likely fired the gunshots that killed an 8-year-old girl and wounded three others at a Pennsylvania high school football game, investigators have found.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer released an update Monday in the investigation into the Aug. 27 deadly gunfire outside Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill, where 8-year-old Fanta Bility was fatally shot and four others were wounded as fans were leaving the stadium.
Stollsteimer said the “horrific events” started when an argument among a group of young men escalated into gunfire one block outside Academy Park High School’s football stadium following a game against Pennsbury High School.
Three Sharon Hill police officers were stationed opposite the stadium’s exit as fans were leaving and a car turned onto a street directly in front of them as bullets rang out, Stollsteimer said.
“We have concluded that the gunfire, combined with the movement of the vehicle, precipitated responsive gunfire from the Sharon Hill police officers,” the district attorney said in a statement. “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.”
Final forensic reports are pending, according to Stollsteimer, whose office is investigating the weapons discharge by the three cops who have since been put on administrative duties. They have not been publicly identified.
The borough of Sharon Hill hired a former district attorney of Philadelphia, Kelley B. Hodge, to conduct an administrative review of the Sharon Hill Police Department’s deadly force procedures and policies, Stollsteimer said.
The district attorney asked a judge to impanel an investigative grand jury in the case to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
“In this case, the grand jury will hear testimony related to the entire incident that night on Coates Street and will, at the conclusion of its work, issue a comprehensive report as to what happened on August 27,” Stollsteimer said, adding that no further updates by his office would occur until that’s completed.
“I understand the community’s desire for closure, but ask instead for continued patience as we work to provide justice and accountability for the all the victims of this tragedy,” the district attorney’s statement continued.
Multiple shell casings were recovered from the crime scene, Stollsteimer said, and investigators have identified suspects and persons of interests in the initial gunfire.
“It is our expectation that further investigation will lead to the arrest of the individuals involved,” Stollsteimer said.
The district attorney announced earlier this month that there was a “high probability” that cops’ gunfire killed Bility and wounded three others, including the girl’s 12-year-old sister, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Bruce Castor Jr., a former prosecutor representing Bility’s family, told the newspaper he and the girl’s relatives met with Stollsteimer for 90 minutes Monday and were satisfied that he’s “playing it straight, by the book, and doing everything I would do.”
No charges have been filed in the deadly gunfire, although three people were initially detained and later released, NBC Philadelphia reported.