inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Delco Judge Expected to Rule on Cops’ Charges in Fanta Bility Case

Common Pleas Judge Margaret Amoroso is expected to rule Monday on a defense motion to dismiss manslaughter charges against three Sharon Hill police officers charted in the shooting death of Fanta Bility.

Bility, an 8-year-old girl, was leaving a football game on Aug. 27, 2021, when she was struck by bullets allegedly fired by officers Devon Smith, Brian Devaney, and Sean Dolan. According to a report from the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, they began firing after they heard shots being fired nearby.

“Three Sharon Hill police officers were positioned opposite the area used by spectators to exit the stadium. As the gunfire erupted on Coates Street, 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 district attorney’s report said.

Steve Patton, a lawyer representing Dolan, said Judge Amoroso will either issue her ruling on the defense motion to quash the charges or simply have a status conference. The case is set for 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Delaware County courthouse.

“The essential fact is, they don’t have the evidence that my client, in particular, caused the death or any person, in particular, caused the death,” said Patton. He declined to discuss the case further, saying the defense lawyers will make their arguments “in a courtroom in front of a judge.”

“We’ve done that and trust the judge will make a good decision,” Patton said.

Bruce L. Castor Jr., the lawyer representing the Bility family, declined to discuss the case until after the judge rules.

Fanta was one of four people, including her sister, struck by police bullets during the shooting. The other three survived.

In July, Sharon Hill borough released a heavily redacted report from a law firm that it had hired to investigate the shooting.

“The first shooting incident that occurred that evening was between two individuals, A.J. Ford and Hasein Strand, who reportedly had been in attendance at the game,” the Sharon Hill report said. “Witnesses to the criminal investigation describe Ford as firing the first shots from a .45 caliber semi-automatic firearm from the area of 909 Coates Street west towards Ridley Street. He fired at least five times toward Hasein Strand.

“Strand then returned fire by shooting a 9mm semi-automatic firearm from approximately 919 Coates Street east towards the 800 block of Coates Street, where pedestrians were leaving the football game and where (the three officers) were positioned. One of the projectiles fired by Strand struck an unintended target,” the report said.

The borough council fired the three officers shortly after the incident.

“This is a sad day for our officers who face criminal charges for trying to do their jobs and keeping the community safe,” Joseph Fitzgerald, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27, said in January when the officers were indicted. “The FOP continues to support those fine officers and will provide a vigorous defense against these allegations. Our members have served the Sharon Hill community with respect and integrity and we ask the public for continued patience as this case moves through the criminal justice system.”

The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or


FLOWERS: Shapiro’s Letter on Recruiting More Cops Rings Hollow

Josh Shapiro wants you to think that he cares about law enforcement. He wants you to believe that policing is one of his priorities, which makes sense because he is the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.  It’s also a bit rich, at this late stage in the game. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Shapiro is running for governor of this great commonwealth, which is actually something he’s been doing since he put his pencil protector in his pocket, pulled up his socks, tied his shoelaces (by himself), and trotted off to kindergarten. Shapiro is one of those people who’s been campaigning since he knew how to spell the word “win.”

And there’s nothing wrong with that because most of us have ambition and some of us aren’t afraid to put it on display. Shapiro is one of those people, which means he’s followed his dream through jobs as Montgomery County commissioner, his current position as AG, and now, of course, his claim on the governorship of Pennsylvania.

And because he’s quite intelligent and understands that an AG running for higher office needs to at least pretend to care about law enforcement, he’s sent a letter to the Pennsylvania legislature urging it to hire more police. Shapiro reminds us that he is the “Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Commonwealth” and writes: “I am once again calling for you to step up so our communities can provide essential public safety services. While you must prioritize between a variety of worthy causes, and current workforce shortages impact many professions, I believe we must hire hundreds of new officers to fill these vacancies. Filling these open positions will make our neighborhoods safer and allow departments to restart foot patrols and outreach efforts that build and repair relationships between the police and the communities they serve.”

If you take the letter at face value, you have to applaud the AG for stepping up and stating the obvious:  we are dealing with a severe and significant policing shortage. The number of early retirements has increased, the number of new applicants has decreased, and the number of lateral moves into other areas of law enforcement has also increased. The volume of officers who are either walking a beat or dealing directly with the communities they live in is shrinking. It’s true, it’s troubling, and it needs to be addressed.

So again, at face value, Josh Shapiro is both stating the obvious and doing his job: trying to keep the commonwealth safe for We, the People.

But if you dig deeper, this letter has the scent of chutzpah and the taste of irony. Democrats like Josh have spent the last two and a half years telling us that police are bad, that they are racist, that they are incompetent, that they regularly kill people based on the color of their skin, and that they need to be “retrained.”  These Stepford Cops will be programmed to make sure that they don’t offend the sort of people who value pronouns over character. They will not put their own safety first but, rather, treat a gun-wielding stranger as someone who needs therapy and understanding.

In tweet after tweet, posting after posting, commercial after commercial, and press conference after press conference, Democrats have continued to remind us how broken the police force is, and how much havoc it has caused in vulnerable communities (and the term “vulnerable” has a very broad and ever-shifting definition). Even Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, who was a recent victim of crime, could not bring herself to disavow earlier comments about the need to combat racist policing.

So it seems to me that Josh Shapiro has what my Italian grandmother would have called “corraggio” or nerve to only now come to the realization that we need more police. Perhaps he and his colleagues on the left should acknowledge the fact that one of the reasons, perhaps a central reason that there is a police shortage, is because these men and women in blue do not want to risk their lives for folks who consider them racist, who second guess their actions, who constantly question their character and who want to put the figurative handcuffs on them, instead of on the criminals where they belong.

Shapiro has long had the ability to do something to protect the vulnerable communities he’s worried about. Rep. Martina White shepherded a bill through the legislature which gave the AG’s office the ability to wrest jurisdiction from Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. That was a direct response to Krasner’s failure to keep Philadelphians safe as he presides over a historic increase in homicides, one not seen in decades.

And Shapiro hasn’t used the weapon, because he’s a political animal and his Democrat benefactors wouldn’t like it. Even in the face of dead children, Democrats are loathe to criticize other Democrats.

So, this letter from Josh Shapiro is good as far as it goes. We need more police officers, and we need to treat them equitably, provide them with salaries that recognize their sacrifice, and restore respect to a profession unfairly stripped of it by demagogues. But it’s also a reminder of just how tone-deaf politicians can be, even those who’ve been campaigning from the crib.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or

Sharon Hill Council Fires Three Officers Indicted in Girl’s Death

Two days after a Delaware County grand jury indicted three Sharon Hill police officers on manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility, Sharon Hill Borough Council voted 6-1 to fire them.

Fanta was among four people injured when the officers began firing toward a car that came around the corner after a group of young men began shooting at each other in the 900 block of Coates Street.  However, at the same time spectators from an Academy Park High School football game, including Fanta, were leaving the stadium and were caught in a hail of bullets. A fifth victim was struck by a bullet fired by one of the young men, the grand jury report said.

Officers Devon Smith, 33, Sean Dolan, 25, and Brian Devaney, 41, are free on $500,000 unsecured bail.

“This is a sad day for our officers who face criminal charges for trying to do their jobs and keeping the community safe,” Joseph Fitzgerald, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27 said in a statement. “The FOP continues to support those fine officers and will provide a vigorous defense against these allegations. Our members have served the Sharon Hill community with respect and integrity and we ask the public for continued patience as this case moves through the criminal justice system.”

Some Delaware Valley residents have also raised questions about how the officers are being treated.

“It’s a shame these fine officers are being used as scapegoats,” Haverford resident Richard Gallo said on Facebook. “Would never have happened if it was a Republican county and DA”—a jab at Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, a Democrat.

Soon after the incident, various groups, including Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, began demanding charges be filed against the three officers.

But retired Upper Darby Police Chief Mike Chitwood says he believes they were not treated fairly. He blames Stollsteimer.

“When I saw the DA, who I respect, when I saw he punted the case to the grand jury, I said, ‘These guys are going to be indicted.’ Because a grand jury can indict a hamburger.”

“I always said, ‘Taking a case before a grand jury takes the heat off you.’ So don’t have to make a decision and the police don’t get mad at you if you take a case before a grand jury.”

“The incident itself was a tragedy,” Chitwood added. “I accept that. It was a total out-and-out tragedy…In my opinion, the police, as tragic as it was, never went into work and said, ‘I think I’ll kill an 8-year-old girl.’ It never happened. But the way they’re being treated, with the indictment, the grand jury, now they’re being fired. Where’s the presumption of innocence? There is none. And that’s unfair. You wonder why police in America today don’t do anything? Because they don’t get the backing.”

Borough Council should have waited to act until after the trial, he said. Council President Tanya Allen did not respond to a request for comment.

“They didn’t give them that opportunity,” said Chitwood. “And, it’s all about what’s politically right. It doesn’t take away from the tragedy. It was a tragic event that happened because of a lot of different variables that played themselves out.”

“This is the society we live in today,” Chitwood. “The homicide rates are going sky high. The solvability rates are going sky low. That’s the reason why. You’re not going to do anything if you get no support. These officers, right, wrong, indifferent got no support.”


Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or