The prosecutor’s handling of a shooting in Philadelphia last August, in which two Black teenagers have been charged for the murder of an 8-year-old girl, has led to outrage from elected officials and activists.
On 27 August, 16-year-old Angelo Ford and 19-year-old Hasein Strand got into a fight outside a high school football match in Sharon Hill, Media. As the two exchanged gunfire, 8-year-old Fanta Bility was killed in responsive gunfire from three Sharon Hill police officers who were stationed outside the game.
The two teens have been charged with first degree murder and other offences by prosecutors who say the two should be held criminally liable for Fanta’s murder.
A grand jury convened by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer is investigating the use of force by the police officers. Mr Stollsteimer, a first term Democrat, is facing backlash for his treatment of the two teenagers and the police officers.
On Thursday, the court postponed a preliminary hearing in Mr Ford’s case just a day after Mr Strand waived a preliminary hearing in the case.
Elected officials and activists held a protest outside the Delaware County Courthouse against the disparate treatment meted out to the two Black teenagers and the police whose errant bullet killed the child. Protesters demanded that charges of premeditated murder be dropped against the two teens and that the police officers be named and charged in Fanta’s killing.
Eight-year-old Fanta Bility was shot and killed by a stray police pullet outside a Philadelphia high school in August
(Family handout via CBS Philly)
In a statement to Newsweek, Kris Henderson, executive director of the Amistad Law Project, said: “The police acted recklessly and tragically took the life of a young girl who was beloved by many.”
“Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer has only compounded this tragedy by shielding the police from accountability and shamefully charging two Black youth with first-degree murder based on a ridiculous legal theory in an attempt to deflect attention from the undisputed fact that the Sharon Hill police killed Fanta Bility,” the executive director said.
“Both he and the Sharon Hill Police must be held accountable for the ways they’ve harmed the community and fostered injustice,” they added.
Mr Stollsteimer is also under pressure from members of the Philadelphia City Council.
In a statement on Wednesday five members of the council said: “The weight of this tragedy falls on the shoulders of the three officers who discharged their weapons that day. For the DA to attribute responsibility for this crime to these young Black men, while allowing the officers involved to get off scot-free, is indefensible.”
Two democratic committees in Delaware County have also urged the district attorney to turn over the case to the state attorney general’s office.
Additional reporting by agencies