The prosecutor’s handling of a shooting in Philadelphia last August, in which two black teenagers were charged with the murder of an 8-year-old girl, sparked outrage among elected officials and activists.
On August 27, 16-year-old Angelo Ford and 19-year-old Hasein Strand got into an argument outside a high school football game in Sharon Hill, Media. As the pair exchanged gunfire, 8-year-old Fanta Bility was killed by responding fire from three Sharon Hill police officers who were posted outside the game.
Both teenagers have been charged with first-degree murder and other offenses by prosecutors who said both should be held criminally responsible for Fanta’s murder.
A grand jury convened by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer is investigating the police’s use of force. Mr. Stollsteimer, a first-term Democrat, is facing backlash for his treatment of the two teenagers and police officers.
The court on Thursday 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 staged a protest outside the Delaware County Courthouse against the disparate treatment of the two black teenagers and the police whose stray bullet killed the child. Protesters demanded that the premeditated murder charges be dropped against the two teenagers and that the police be named and charged with Fanta’s murder.
In a statement to Newsweek, Kris Henderson, executive director of the Amistad Law Project, said: “The police acted recklessly and tragically claimed the life of a young girl loved by many.”
“Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer has only made this tragedy worse by shielding the police from liability and shamefully charging two black youths with first-degree murder based on a ludicrous legal theory in order to distract from the undisputed fact that Sharon Hill police killed Fanta Bility,” the executive director said.
“He and Sharon Hill Police must be held accountable for how they have harmed the community and promoted injustice,” they added.
Mr. Stollsteimer is also under pressure from members of the Philadelphia City Council.
In a statement released Wednesday, five council members said: “The weight of this tragedy rests on the shoulders of the three officers who discharged their weapons that day. That the DA is blaming these young black men for this crime, while allowing the officers involved to walk away unscathed, is indefensible.
Two Democratic county committees in Delaware also urged the district attorney to refer the case to the state attorney general’s office.
Additional reports by agencies