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A Philadelphia father has been arrested in the shooting death of his teenage son, who was fatally struck with a single bullet after the boy’s twin brother mistakenly pulled the trigger.
A day after Philadelphia prosecutors dropped murder charges against teenager Fayaddh Gillard, who had been implicated in the freak shooting death of his twin brother, Suhail, nearly two weeks ago, authorities arrested the boys’ father, Aleem Gillard.
Aleem was charged with involuntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, endangering the welfare of another person, corruption of minors, and other related offenses, police said.
“While our office’s initial decision to prosecute Fayaadh Gillard was rooted in the fact, volunteered by him, that he was holding the gun that caused his brother’s death, further careful investigation led us to conclude that this was a horrifically tragic accident for which Fayaadh Gillard, already grieving and traumatized, should not be held criminally liable,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.
Krasner said Aleem recklessly endangered his twin sons and daughter when he openly wielded the pistol, urging them “to handle a deadly weapon,” and then instructed his two other children to lie to police about the Dec. 1 shooting that occurred at his west Philadelphia home.
“Not only did Aleem Gillard encourage his children resulting in the accidental shooting of one of his twin boys, he later instructed his two surviving, traumatized children to lie to authorities so that he could keep himself out of prison,” Krasner added. “Aleem Gillard must now answer for the reckless, criminal behavior that resulted in the death of his child.”
In an unsettling video filmed by Suhail moments before he was fatally shot, Aleem appears to mimic loading and unloading the pistol. The recording was subsequently obtained from the family and reviewed by Oxygen.com.
The Gillards’ attorney said Fayaadh accidentally pulled the trigger of the pistol while testing its safety mechanism as he sat across the table from his twin. The weapon discharged, fatally striking Suhail in the chest. But when police arrived, officials said the father instructed his children to mislead investigators.
Aleem, 42, has been in trouble with the law for guns before — he was convicted for public gun possession in 1998. He also pleaded guilty to firearms charges in 2006 and 2015, online court records show. Officials said he was prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns at the time of his son’s shooting.
The gun which killed Suhail was recovered by police, but it’s currently unknown how the father obtained it, given his record.
Aleem, too, is supposedly paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after previously being shot multiple times himself. The family’s lawyer described the 42-year-old father as a former “certified” street criminal who racked up an extensive rap sheet “playing hard in the streets.”
“As egregious as an offense as this was, involuntary manslaughter is the proper charge,” Shaka Johnson, Fayaadh’s lawyer, told Oxygen.com on Friday, Dec. 13.
Johnson, who said Aleem was the shooting’s “catalyst,” said the father was “showing off” the pistol to his twin sons when the lethal shot was fired.
While Johnson said the family is pleased Fayaadh’s name has been cleared, they’re torn about the charges the father now faces.
“[It] means the kids can’t fully put this to bed,” Johnson explained. “While somebody has to atone for this crime and what happened to Suhail, I know that that really means for the surviving twin Fayaadh… this case still isn’t over.”
Fayaadh, who plans to soon return to school, has been traumatized in the aftermath of the deadly shooting, the family said.
“He’s absolutely guilt-ridden,” Suhail and Fayaadh’s uncle Hasan Ford told Oxygen.com. “We’re trying to explain to him, like, ‘Listen man, it’s not your fault. It was an accident.’ And the reality is he shouldn’t have been put in that situation.”
For the family, justice was served, they said, when Fayaadh was released.
“With Fayaadh being free, being out here back with us, with his family, and he’s going to live his life, go to school, play football — that’s what justice looks like for us,” Nafis Woods, the twins’ 23-year-old brother, told Oxygen.com.
Prosecuting the Gillard twins’ father, they said, won’t bring back Suhail — and will likely take a further emotional toll on the surviving teen.
“It’s still sad, you know,” Woods added. “No one meant for any of this to happen, including the father — he loves them.”
The twins, who turned 18 in October, co-captained their high school football team in Philadelphia’s Old City prior to Suhail’s death. Suhail, whose teammates nicknamed him “Agent 4,” was described by his family as a “self-motivated” student in the classroom and a “monster” on the field.
Both he and Fayaadh were being actively recruited by a handful of colleges at the time of the shooting.
“Suhail was everything that was good about Mastery,” Mickey Grace, a teacher and assistant football coach at the school, told Oxygen.com.
The 27-year-old teacher said she knew both boys well and taught Suhail a leadership class. The late teen had aspired to study business in college. The past week, Grace admitted, was “unbearable.”
“It’s hard — Fayaadh loves his dad,” she added. “He’s always loved his dad. This horrible, horrible situation is about, at this point, who kind of facilitated the recipe for such a tragic accident to happen.”
She said “bittersweet” doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the magnitude of the tragedy: “The ‘bitter’ is in all capital letters."
“His reality is that he lost his brother, he lost the person who has shared every single moment with him since the womb,” she added. “And he lost his father who is responsible for him being on this planet. There’s no good side of any of it.”
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