The family of Fanta Bility reached an $11 million settlement with Sharon Hill Borough and other defendants Monday in the shooting case that claimed the life of the eight-year-old girl.
A bullet from one of the three police officers who fired into a crowd leaving an Academy Park High School football game on Aug. 27, 2021, killed Fanta and wounded her sister and another child.
Bility family attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. confirmed the settlement to DVJournal.
Fanta’s mother, Tenneh Kromah, recounted the horrible night she lost her daughter in a July interview with DVJournal.
When the shots rang out, everyone was running, she recalled. “We all were together. We were afraid.”
She saw Fanta fall to the ground, sat beside her, and turned her over on her lap. She realized her daughter was wounded and screamed for help.
“Blood was coming from her chest,” said Kromah. Officers scooped up the bleeding girl and rushed her to the hospital. Kromah was too distraught to talk to the police; her son Abu, who was 7, gave them information.
The family emigrated from Liberia in 2004 to escape a civil war, never imagining that their children would be in danger in America — and certainly not from shots fired by the police.
It was not until weeks after the shooting that the Bility family learned that Fanta and her sister were struck by policemen’s bullets rather than the gunfire from thugs down the street, which had sparked the fatal incident.
As part of the settlement, Sharon Hill officials also agreed to name a park after Fanta, form a Citizen’s Advisory Board for the police department, and stipulate police officers will undergo periodic training in the use of deadly force.
In addition, Castor said he is working with the family to ask the General Assembly to pass a law to mandate training on the use of deadly force for all police officers in the state. Under the proposal, that training would include simulated shooting instruction and would be graded.
“These non-economic damages are areas the Bility family insisted upon,” Castor said. “Not only to keep the memory of Fanta alive but to help improve policing in the community.”
Siddiq Kamara, a Bility family spokesman, said, “No amount of money will ever bring Fanta back or erase the memory of the horrible tragedy that occurred on August 27, 2021, from our minds.
“However, with the criminal and civil cases now resolved, we hope to move on and focus specifically on the Fanta Bility Foundation and to keep Fanta’s legacy alive.”
On the night of the shooting, the officers– Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan, and Devon Smith—responded to shots fired a block from the football field. They believed the gunfire came from a nearby car. After an extensive criminal investigation by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, the three were arrested and pled guilty to 10 counts of recklessly endangering another person.
In May, Judge Margaret Amoroso sentenced them to five years’ probation, including 11 months of house arrest.
The law firms of van der Veen, Hartshorn, & Levin, and Green & Schafle, both of Philadelphia, who represented the plaintiffs, and MacMain, Leinhauser of West Chester, who represented the Borough of Sharon Hill and the Sharon Hill chief of police, settled the case in federal court. The settlement is pending before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III, who is expected to sign off on the deal. The settlement came after a conference before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Hey, also of the Eastern District, who approved the finalized agreement and forwarded it to Judge Bartle with her concurrence.
Lawyers Castor and Michael T. van der Veen represented the Bility family and two young women driving a car fired upon by police that night. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Michael Schafle, represented a juvenile also injured by gunfire.
Attorney Robert DiDomenicis, who represented the borough, coordinated the defense for the borough, the former police officers, and the chief of police.
The thrust of the plaintiffs’ suits centered on their allegations of Sharon Hill Borough’s failure to properly train its police officers in the use of deadly force and that officers firing at a moving car (with the consequent ever-changing background) were not trained adequately in the inherent risks, Castor said.
Sharon Hill officials did not respond to requests for comment.