What to Know
- Murder charges were dropped against Fayaad Gillard in the accidental shooting death of his twin brother, Suhail Gillard.
- The Philadelphia District Attorney said the teens' father, Aleem Gillard, gave the gun to his sons and daughter and was showing them how to use it moments before the deadly shooting.
- Both brothers were high school football standouts at Mastery Charter High School.
Murder charges were dropped Wednesday against a Philadelphia football player accused of killing his twin brother after investigators determined their father played a role in the accidental shooting, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced.
Several hours later, the DA's office approved an arrest warrant for the twins' dad, Aleem Gillard, who will face involuntary manslaughter and weapons charges, according to law enforcement sources.
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Gillard had been showing his 18-year-old sons and 16-year-old daughter how to use two guns he owned when Suhail Gillard was killed inside the older man's Overbrook apartment on Dec. 1, officials said.
District Attorney Larry Krasner called the death a “tragic accident,” adding that evidence suggested the surviving brother, Fayaad Gillard, pulled 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.
Krasner added that Aleem Gillard was ultimately responsible for the shooting and will be "treated accordingly." Gillard is a convicted felon and should not have had firearms, according to prosecutors.
"He was demonstrating how to use it - showing [the kids] specifics about the firearm, how to load, unload, how to actually eject bullets," Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Ashley Toczylowski said. "The firearms were given to the children to, essentially, mimic what he was doing."
That's when the shooting happened, Toczylowski added.
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 Those charges were also withdrawn.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.