- Fanta Bility, 8, was killed on August 27 when police opened fire on her family’s vehicle.
- The police were responding to a gunfight outside a football game in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania.
- Prosecutors have charged two teenagers with first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
When two teenagers got into a gunfight over the summer at a football game just outside Philadelphia, both walked away with their lives. The one who didn’t was Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old girl, who was in a car with her family, who had nothing to do with the argument.
She was killed when police responding to the gunfight – not the teenagers – opened fire striking the vehicle as it drove away. Police gunfire also wounded three bystanders.
Bility’s surviving family has filed a lawsuit that accuses the responding Sharon Hill Police Department of excessive force and “a specific intent to kill,” saying they acted “unreasonably” by firing on the car while innocent bystanders who were also injured stood directly behind it. Several officers were put on leave following the incident, according to WHYY.
This week, the two teens, 16-year-old Angelo Ford and 18-year-old Hasein Strand, were charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault. Ford was arrested, but as of Wednesday, Strand had not been apprehended.
The legal reasoning, per Delaware County First District Attorney Tanner Rouse, is “very simple“: “They were attempting to kill one another that night, and as a direct result a little girl is dead.”
But a legal expert who spoke to Insider said it is not a slam dunk
Guyora Binder is a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law and author of the book, “Felony Murder,” the legal doctrine that many states have used to hold people responsible for crimes they did not necessarily intend to, or personally, commit.
In this case, he noted, the prosecutor is relying on a section of the Pennsylvania legal code that holds a person responsible for a crime they intended to commit, but which had a different victim. It requires “persuading a jury that the ‘only’ difference between what they intended and what happened was that a different person was killed.”
According to a police affidavit, reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, the fight between the two teenagers escalated outside a football game when one lifted their shirt to display a handgun. The other then went to his car and grabbed a handgun; the two then exchanged fire. One bystander was hit in their side.
A jury would need to be persuaded, in order to prove first-degree murder, that there was homicidal intent, “as opposed to merely frightening, or even wounding one another,” Binder noted.
An additional hurdle: that neither shot Bility, either on purpose or by accident.
“So we may not have the required intent to kill and we probably do not have the required causation of death,” Binder said. “We also have what appears to be an unreasonable use of deadly force by police against an innocent child.”
Bruce Castor, an attorney for the Bility family who previously served as district attorney for neighboring Montgomery County, told local ABC affiliate WPVI that he likewise believes that prosecutors will “have a tough time in a transferred intent case charging these fellas with first-degree murder.”
Castor said Friday’s charging decision should not distract “from the fact that it was police officers acting recklessly and inappropriately that fired the fatal round that killed Fanta Billy.”
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