Fanta Bility death: Questions raised about redacted report in girl's police shooting death

Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania police fatally shot 8-year-old girl after football game

Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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"Hosting their first national night out knowing that a child was killed on these same grounds less than a year ago, and still no answers have been given to the family. That's a hazard to the community," said Diamond Gibbs of Sharon Hill.

SHARON HILL, Pa. -- It's been nearly a year since 8-year-old Fanta Bility was killed by police officers outside Philadelphia, but community members have said they don't have any more information now than they did a year ago.

During a Tuesday morning press conference hosted by the local NAACP, Bility's mother, Tenneh Kromah, spoke about the loss of her daughter for the first time.

"Thank you everyone for supporting me and my family," she said in a soft-spoken voice. "I just want truth from Sharon Hill (Pennsylvania police) and justice for my daughter."

Bility was shot in August 2021 as she walked with her mother following a football game at Academy Park High School.

SEE ALSO: Law firm releases heavily redacted report in police shooting death of Fanta Bility

Three officers, identified as Brian Devaney, Sean Dolan and Devon Smith, fired their weapons as the game was letting out in response to gunfire they heard in the vicinity that was unrelated to the football game.

They fired 25 shots at a black Chevy Impala, which they believed was where the shots were coming from.

That vehicle was passing the exiting crowd, which included Bility.

The deadly decision to fire into the crowd was the catalyst for a nine-month investigation, in which the borough hired a private council to look into what happened.

"In June, we were told the report was done. They made us wait until July to get the report," said Darby Area NAACP President Sheila A. Carter.

The report was released Friday, and is heavily redacted, with many of its findings and recommendations not visible to the public.

"The answers they gave are redacted. We have a right to know," said Cathy Hicks, president of the NAACP Philadelphia Branch.

SEE ALSO: 3 Sharon Hill police officers charged in shooting death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility

Borough Solicitor Courtney Richardson completed the redactions. She said she received the approval of other council after making the redactions.

"The recommendations and conclusions have been withheld because ultimately it's part of the judicial process," she said, adding that the council "didn't have to" release anything to the public.

Local activists disagree with that sentiment, saying the borough is obligated to the residents of the borough to be transparent with all information in the report.

In their decision to redact a large portion of the report, borough leaders cite attorney/client privilege and the pending criminal and civil cases against the three officers who have all been fired and charged, but community members say they should at least be told what the report said about policy and procedure recommendations for police.

"If you don't allow us to know what your policies and procedures are if it happens again, what happens then?" asked Carter.

"How can we trust our public officials if they won't even tell us what is going wrong?" asked Fanta's uncle, Abu Bility.

On Tuesday night, protesters gathered at Academy Park High School -- the same location for National Night Out, a police-community building event held annually across the country.

Those in the protest say the police Night Out shouldn't have been held at the school.

"Hosting their first National Night Out knowing that a child was killed on these same grounds less than a year ago, and still no answers have been given to the family. That's a hazard to the community," said Diamond Gibbs of Sharon Hill.

The group marched to the school from Sharon Hill Borough Hall.

Family and community members feel Bility's case isn't being treated fairly because of race.

"Once it's a Black person from an immigrant background, we feel we are being looked down upon," said Alascal Wisner, of the immigrant advocacy group Minority Center.

"The question of whether we're treating the Bility family differently because of their color, I would say, as a member of this elected body, is not a true statement," said Sharon Hill Borough Council President Tanya Allen as she addressed community members and the media, at times appearing emotional over the case.

Still, the people fighting on behalf of Bility vow to continue that fight until they get answers and justice.

"We're going to continue to fight for justice for Fanta," said Malcolm Yates of the Delaware County Black Caucus.

The head of the NAACP said she'll file a request to find out how much the investigation cost the Borough. The Borough said they're still working on police policy recommendations. There's no timeline for when "those" will be released.