An $11 million settlement has been reached in federal lawsuits over police gunfire outside a high school football game near Philadelphia in 2021 that killed an 8-year-old girl and wounded others, an attorney for the girl`s family said.
Attorney Michael van der Veen, a lawyer for the family of Fanta Bility, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the settlement reached last week also requires the borough of Sharon Hill to give a citizen’s advisory committee a say in the hiring of police officers and requires offices to undergo training in using deadly force,
“The family has been mourning throughout this whole process,” he told the newspaper Friday. “I really believe that they’re going to find some closure with the settlement. I can see it already.”
The three lawsuits alleged that Sharon Hill failed to train and supervise its officers and that police used excessive force in August 2021 when they shot at a vehicle near the Academy Park High School stadium as Fanta Bility and her family left a football game. An investigation found the officers negligently fired 25 shots at a car they mistakenly thought was involved in gunfire a block away. Four people were hit by police gunfire that sped past the car.
Van der Veen said Fanta Bility`s family and two other women hit will receive $10 million while another girl shot in the foot will receive $1 million. The payout was capped at $11 million under the borough`s insurance policy, he said. The borough will also name a park after Fanta Bility to ensure that she is not forgotten, he said.
The borough of Sharon Hill posted a statement confirming that the federal lawsuit had been settled but including no details, saying officials wanted to “acknowledge that there are no words or actions that can adequately address the tragic loss of Fanta Bility.”
“Though this chapter has come to an end, our hearts and the spirit of the Sharon Hill community will be forever changed,” the statement said, vowing to continue efforts to prevent anything like the shooting from ever happening again.
Three former Sharon Hill officers were sentenced in May to five years of probation — with the first 11 months on house arrest — after pleading guilty to 10 misdemeanor reckless endangerment counts in a deal that dismissed manslaughter charges. Authorities said they could not determine which officer fired the shot that killed Fanta Bility.
The family has created a foundation that in August hosted a book bag and school supply drive and plans to advocate for better police training and safety measures. Van der Veen said the family will also push for legislation in Harrisburg to require regular deadly force training for police across the commonwealth.
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