Racist Pennsylvania Firefighters Had Good Laugh About Eight-Year-Old Girl Cops Killed

Racist Pennsylvania Firefighters Had Good Laugh About Eight-Year-Old Girl Cops Killed

The Briarcliffe Fire Company was suspended for 30 days after the Philadelphia-area volunteer firefighters were caught on tape spouting racist garbage after a virtual meeting in January. Michael Pierce, solicitor for Darby Township, Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post that the grossness was exposed when the aptly named Goodwill Fire Company, another local volunteer firehouse, submitted a letter detailing the January 27 conversation.

According to Pierce, a fire survey meeting was held over Zoom with Briarcliffe and other local fire companies. After most of the participants had left the meetings, several Briarcliffe members, supposedly unaware they were still being recorded, launched into their own version of “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

“That’s what … bothers me, Blacks taking over,” one person said, according to audio. At one point, someone points out how another volunteer company has “a lot of Black members” who are “taking over the fire company.”

At another point in the conversation, multiple people are heard laughing after someone said, “Little Fanta Bility, the girl that got shot.” Later in the recording, someone is heard joking about the late girl’s name and how it’s spelled like Fanta soda.

“Fanta soda, yeah, orange or Fanta grape,” the member said.

In addition, one Briarcliffe member also threatened to physically assault a Goodwill official, according to audio.

It’s immature to mock anyone’s name, but Fanta Bility was a an eight-year-old Black girl who three Pennsylvania police officers fatally shot last year at a high school football game in suburban Philadelphia. This is sociopathic and dehumanizing. It’s the same sickness that leads to white people watching a lynching and laughing like it’s a live comedy performance.

Fanta Bility died, and three others were injured, when Sharon Hill police officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney fired 25 shots in response to two teenagers engaged in a gunfight. It’s a concern when teenage punks with guns are more responsible than the police. Fanta’s 12-year-old sister, Mamasu, was also injured.

Smith, Dolan, and Devaney were charged with 12 counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in January. Two teens — Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18 — had previously been charged with first-degree murder for Fanta’s death, although they hadn't actually shot her.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Tuesday in a statement, "We have now concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that it was, in fact, shots from the officers that struck and killed Fanta Bility and injured three others.”

A preliminary report from September — four months ago — had concluded “with near certainty” that the officers’ bullets had killed Fanta, but the DA still charged Ford and Strand with first-degree murder. Stollsteimer is now graciously dropping the wrong charges against the teens. Don’t worry, it’s not like they’re going to walk; Strand will plead guilty to aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm, and Ford, who’s a minor, “remains charged with serious crimes.”

The officers’ lawyers, of course, denounced the DA’s decision:

"This a terrible tragedy that was caused by armed and violent criminals who turned a high school football game into a crime scene in which an innocent child lost her life and others were seriously injured,” attorneys Raymond C. Driscoll, Steven B. Patton and Charles M. Gibbs said in a statement.

“These three good men are innocent and remain heartbroken for all who have suffered because of this senseless violence,” they added.

The officers are hardly “innocent.” They killed Fanta Bility. They made a bad situation fatal. Some cops have a bad habit of blaming common criminals for their own lethal overreactions. That’s not justice.

Joseph Fitzgerald, president of the Delaware chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, claimed the three cops were just “trying to do their jobs and keeping the community safe.” They obviously failed. Fitzgerald, demonstrating standard police solipsism, declared this a “sad day for our officers.” It’s not a great one for Fanta Bility, who’s still dead.

Stollsteimer announced an investigation into why the Briarcliffe Fire Company members were so racist. He insisted the recording "doesn’t reflect the people who live here in Darby Township and it really doesn’t reflect the people who live in Delaware County.” These are local volunteer firefighters. They didn’t ship them in from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

We need to accept that systemic racism exists if we wish to defeat it.

[Washington Post / Inquirer]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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