What to Know
- Aleem Gillard was charged in the shooting death of his 18-year-old son, Suhail Gillard.
- Investigators said Aleem Gillard was showing his twin sons and daughter how to use his gun when they visited his Overbrook apartment Dec. 1.
- As Fayaadh Gillard held the weapon, he accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting and killing his twin brother, Suhail Gillard.
A father who investigators said was responsible for the accidental shooting death of his teen son was charged with involuntary manslaughter, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office said.
Aleem Gillard was arrested Thursday night and also charged with endangering the welfare of a child and possessing an instrument of crime. Gillard, who is a convicted felon, should not have been in possession of a firearm per Pennsylvania law, according to the district attorney's office.
The arrest came two days after murder charges were dropped against Aleem Gillard’s 18-year-old son Fayaadh Gillard. The teen had been accused of shooting and killing his twin brother, Suhail Gillard, insider their father’s Overbrook apartment on Dec. 1.
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District Attorney Larry Krasner called the death a “horrifically tragic accident." Evidence suggested that the surviving brother, Fayaad Gillard, did pull the trigger but did not intend to kill his brother.
"This was a horrific accident for which the whole family will suffer but he should not be criminally liable under these circumstances," Krasner said.
“Further careful investigation led us to find that Fayaadh and his younger sister were also victims of a criminal act, by their father who put the lives of his three children in danger on that terrible day," the district attorney added.
Aleem Gillard has been showing his children, including the twin's 16-year-old sister, how to handle his guns, according to Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Ashley Toczylowski. It was during the demonstration that Suhail Gillard was shot and killed.
“These two young men, bonded since birth, were known to be talented student athletes with bright futures ahead. Suhail’s life was unfairly cut short because of an illegal firearm and the recklessness of Aleem Gillard,” DAO Homicide Unit Supervisor Anthony Voci said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that this office’s pursuit of justice for Suhail Gillard’s death brings some resolution, and a path forward to healing, for those who mourn him.”
Fayaadh Gillard initially told police his brother was shot by another gunman at a store, sources told NBC10. He was later charged with obstruction of justice and lying to officials. Those charges were also withdrawn.
Aleem Gillard encouraged his son and daughter to lie about the shooting, officials said.
"There's a dead 18-year-old only because of the circumstances he put in rotation," Shaka Johnson, a defense attorney, said. "The things he did as a parent. Suhail is only dead because his father introduced a gun."
The Gillard brothers were both seniors and football players at Mastery Charter High School and were recently given first-team All-Public League honors.
In an emailed statement, Mastery praised the DA office’s decision to withdraw charges:
“Having the charges dropped relieves a tremendous burden for the family. The tragic reality, however, is that regardless of the court decision, Fayaadh is grieving in a way that is beyond comprehension. We will continue to support him and his family through this difficult time,” the school said.
Mastery assistant football coach Mickey Grace previously praised the Gillards' love for football and their ability to overcome pain on the field. But Grace added that the twins were "different" from one another.
Suhail Gillard was a three-time All-Public League running back. School officials said several colleges had expressed interest in recruiting him.
"It’s a tragedy. To come back from the Thanksgiving break and find this out, we’re all just shocked and devastated," Mastery spokeswoman Rae Oglesby said. "Our prayers are with his family and his teammates."
Fayaadh Gillard plans to return to school next week as he and his family continue to heal.
"It's the beginning phase of trying to bring healing to the family," the twins' uncle, Hasan Ford, told NBC10.
Ford said both brothers have been the pride of the family and their dedication to both academics and sports made them leaders at school as well as co-captains on the football team.
Ford said the bond between the brothers will never be broken, despite the tragedy that permanently separated them.
"He's taken this pretty hard," Ford said. "But he understands he has to rebound from this."
There are additional community resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence. Further information can be found here.