SHARON HILL >> Counseling and transportation are being provided as the Academy Park community grapples with a Friday night shooting that left a third-grader dead and another youth injured as law enforcement continued their investigation.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer issued a statement Saturday that read, “The Delaware County D.A.’s office is conducting an active and ongoing investigation of this horrific and tragic incident. We will update the community when appropriate. For now, we offer our condolences to the family of the child lost last night.”
Family and community members posted pictures of the little girl calling her “Fanta” with sparkling eyes and a precious smile.
Along with a gallery of pictures, Fatouma Tata Kaba posted, “Our beloved little princess loss her life by some careless gun men at a football game last night. At age of 8. May the almighty Allah accepts you by his side. You will always be miss.”
Before it, she wrote in Arabic, “We belong to God and to Him, we shall return.”
Terrence Oliver, president of Sharon Hill Borough Council, was attending Friday’s game at Knight Park to watch his son, Terrence, and his teammates on the Academy Park football team play against Pennsbury. Shortly after the game ended with a 42-0 home victory, approximately seven shots rang out.
“At this point, we are trying to gather facts,” he said Saturday afternoon. “Something like that takes a real toll on someone mentally. I feel for the family. We want to support the family any way that we can. I know the first responders did everything I could see to control it. The team leadership, they did the same in my opinion.”
Players from both teams were still on the field when the shots rang out. Coaches and administrators ordered everyone to take cover with some ducking behind a small maintenance vehicle on the field. Members of the teams sprinted to the back of the stands or to their team bus.
Pennsbury's Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith and high school principals Lisa Becker and Reggie Meadows issued the following statement, "This evening at an away football game against Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill a shooting incident occurred. Details are still unfolding but initial reports indicate that individuals were shot as they exited the game. None of our players, parents, or coach staff were injured during the incident.
"Our coaches assisted at the scene administering first aid and directing our players to safety. The students were evacuated and safely returned to Pennsbury High School where they were met by school counselors and administrators and united with their parents. This was a traumatic event for those involved and our counselors are available to provide assistance to our players.
"We are appreciative of the efforts of our coaching staff and our players who performed admirably in a very difficult situation."
Southeast Delco School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda G. Wynder said counseling was available Saturday and was offered on Monday at Academy Park High School for any family member, student or community member who needed it.
The Delaware County Intermediate Unit said it would be supporting Southeast Delco’s counseling efforts and the Collingdale Athletic Club said it would help the district in any way it could.
Wynder said a district administrator had met with family of the Sharon Hill School third-grader who was killed, although they have not yet met directly with the parents. In addition, an Academy Park 10th-grader was one of the two injured.
“We are heartbroken,” Wynder said. “Our condolences go out to our families. As a community, we want to work together.”
She said the incident impacts four of Southeast Delco schools and they were making sure that an administrator had talked to staff in each of the buildings.
“Our primary focus was to make sure that we could get counseling for our staff and our students,” Wynder said.
Authorities continue to investigate the case and Wynder said the Southeast School District is cooperating with police.
Academy Park Football urged the community to assist by tweeting, “If you have any information at all about last night’s incident, do the right thing and call 911 or call your local police department. It’s not snitching. It’s the right thing to do. If you aren’t comfortable talking to police, tell someone you trust or use the Safe2Say app.”
According to state Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, of Lower Makefield, the shots rang out near the concession stand. A Delaware County Daily Times reporter who was covering the game Friday said shots occurred near the main entrance to Knight Park.
“Pennsbury coaches helped at the scene by administering first aid and getting players to safety,” he said, adding that Pennsbury Superintendent Dr. Tom Smith issued a statement that said counseling was available for students in their district Saturday.
“I would like to thank the coaches and staff for serving so admirably under extremely difficult circumstances,” the senator said. “I would also like to thank Dr. Smith and the district for providing help for the players and students. Now is the time for our community to come together in support of our students, staff and their families. If I know anything about our Pennsbury community, I know that we will do just that.”
Norristown Area High School Principal Ed Roth tweeted, “My heart is with @AParkFootball and the entire Knights family. As a proud alum, I know the events of last night do not tell the story of the greatness that happens at Academy Park High School. #ParkPride”
Sharon Hill residents spoke about the incident Saturday.
“This stuff doesn’t normally happen,” Oliver said. “This is the first time that something like this has happened.”
Tracey Turner, a 20-year resident of Sharon Hill, was on her way home from work when she heard about the shooting.
“We get near home, it was like nothing I ever seen,” she said. “It was crazy.”
She said the community is trying to coordinate a vigil with the third-grader’s family, as well as a fund to support the family.
Of the incident occurring in her hometown, Turner said, “It’s getting scary.”