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The police shot the girl. Two teenagers are charged with murder.

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The police shot the girl. Two teenagers are charged with murder.

It began, prosecutors say, when two teenage boys, to settle it between them and guns, exchanged gunfire outside a high school football stadium, just as a game was over in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Had been.

It ended with the death of an 8-year-old girl named Fanta Billy—not by two boys, but by a barrage of bullets fired at the scene by three police officers, who began firing toward a car they mistakenly believed to be a car. Had taken. Source of bullets.

Now, more than two months after the deadly police shootings that shook the small town of Sharon Hill, criminal charges have been filed in the case — but not against three officers. Two teenage boys have been charged with first-degree murder for triggering the events that led to the death of the girl, a daughter of West African immigrants, who came to see her sister, a cheerleader, and her cousin. was participating in the game. One of the football players.

The decision by prosecutors to charge the two teens, even though they did not fire the bullet that killed the girl, while allowing police officers to keep their jobs, sparked outrage in the community and angered her family, who worry that The police eventually evade accountability.

The charges rely on a legal principle known as “transferred intent,” which prosecutors believe applies in the case because they say the two teenagers intended to kill each other. intended, and the result of his actions was Fanta’s death. But experts say prosecutors are broadening the definition of “transferred intent” and may have difficulty standing up to charges in court.

Prosecutors say the police’s role in Fanta’s death is still under investigation and a grand jury will begin a review of the case on November 18 “to determine whether the use of deadly force by police officers was justified.” District Attorney Jack Stollstemmer of Delaware County said in a statement.

“I ask for the continued patience of the community as the grand jury investigates this,” he said.

“It seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors to divert attention from police accountability,” said Philip M. Stinson, a professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University who studies police violence. “There is no point in shooting at a moving vehicle,” he said.

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Bruce L. Castor Jr., a lawyer for the Ability family, who filed the lawsuit on his behalf against the city of Sharon Hill and its police department, said the girl’s parents were outraged by the allegations against the teen. He said the family believed the allegations were a smoke screen designed to protect police from the legal consequences of killing Fanta. (The family declined to comment via Mr. Castor.)

Mr. Castor, a former acting attorney general of Pennsylvania who, during his second impeachment trial, met former President Donald J. Was one of Trump’s defense attorneys, said he believed the sentences of the two teens at trial would be difficult.

“I’m surprised the district attorney was so aggressive but I certainly wish him well,” Mr. Castor said. “I don’t immediately see how the principle of transferred intent applies in these circumstances.”

Shooting began on the evening of August 27, as the last minutes of the season’s opening football game at Academy Park High School were underway. Viewers were already streaming for the exit. On the radio, the announcer was giving out the final score – a 42-0 victory for the home team – when gunshots could be heard. The players entered the field demanding security on the field.

Prosecutors say a brawl broke out during the game between two boys – one 16, the other 18 – and their group of friends. They say that one of them pointed a gun to his waistband as soon as he left the game and later pulled it out and started shooting at the other group of teenagers. A witness told investigators that another boy shot while running toward his car to retrieve the 9-mm Taurus pistol, injuring a passerby.

About 140 feet away, a group of police officers fired 25 shots in turn, killing Fanta and injuring three others, including an older sister.

The shootout between the two teenagers, Mr. Stolsteimer said in the statement, “was an accountable discharge of weapons by police officers stationed near the entrance to the football stadium.”

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Experts say the case reflects one of the lesser-known ways that the law can protect police from accountability – when officers kill someone but murder charges are brought against other people who were at the scene and isolated. may have participated in criminal acts that provoked a police response.

“The main issue here is that the police were negligent and violated their duty by showing up and shooting at the crowd,” said Dan Coziza of Delco Racists, a local social justice organization formed last year in the wake of George’s police killing. Floyd. “Now instead of taking accountability for their actions, they are trying to take the easy way out by accusing the two young boys of this murder.”

BuzzFeed News reported several similar cases across the country in an investigation published in August. Often in these cases, prosecutors invoke the so-called felony homicide rule, which in some states allows for murder charges against a person who has committed a crime that resulted in death, regardless of whether that person has been convicted of a crime. Have no intention of killing.

In one case, in Phoenix in 2019, police officers pulled over a car because they suspected four people of committing a robbery. When one of them fled, he was shot dead by the police. Three others were charged with murder, while the police were not held accountable.

As the legal process goes on, state Senator Anthony H. Williams, whose district includes Sharon Hill, has asked for calm.

Mr Williams said he felt “blind” and “deceived” when the charges were announced, as he said he was discussing the matter with the district attorney’s office.

“They weren’t the ones who shot the little girl,” he said. “How in the name of God can you go from not charging individuals who were involved to charging individuals who were not involved is an exclamation point to change the system. Not an improvement, but a dramatic change.” Have to go. It’s mind blowing.”

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