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A Philadelphia high school student is accused of fatally shooting his twin brother shortly after the boys’ father tried to teach the siblings how to handle a semi-automatic pistol last week.
Authorities say Fayaadh Gillard allegedly shot and killed his 18-year-old twin brother Suhail Gillard after a pistol the teen was handling discharged at their father’s west Philadelphia home.
Shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, police responded to gunshots on the 1100 block of North 63rd Street in the city’s west end. There, they found Suhail Gillard, who had suffered a single bullet wound to the chest. The teenager was transported to the hospital where he died hours later.
The boy’s twin was booked on murder charges the next day. He’s also accused of obstruction and lying to police after allegedly misleading investigators. Detectives confirmed the gun used in the shooting was retrieved, as well.
However, the boys’ family is adamant the shooting was an accident and are calling for the charges against the dead teenager’s twin to be dropped. Instead, the family’s legal team insists the twins’ father, Aleem Gillard — an ex-convict with a history of gun violence — is to blame.
“Fayaadh is a victim in this situation,” the twins’ brother, Nafis Woods, told Oxygen.com.
“He would never, ever, ever in his life do anything to harm anybody, any of his family, and especially his twin brother — the one who looks, breathes, talks, walks, speaks just like him,” Woods added.
The family’s lawyer hinted, too, that Aleem Gillard could soon be in handcuffs.
“The father is the catalyst and he is responsible for all of this,” Shaka Johnson, the family’s attorney, told Oxygen.com. “I have it on very good authority that he’ll be facing charges here very shortly.”
One of the most startling pieces of evidence in the case, which could potentially incriminate Aleem Gillard is an unnerving live-streamed, but now-deleted Instagram video reportedly filmed by Suhail moments before his death. The video, reviewed by Oxygen.com, shows the boys’ father, wheelchair-bound, waving a gun in an apparent attempt to instruct teens on how to load the weapon.
“The father was playing rap music really loud ... sort of wheelchair-dancing with a gun,” the lawyer described. “They were enamored.”
A popular track by the late Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down in Los Angeles in March, blasts in the background, muffling the father’s words, who appears to be talking in the 10-second clip.
Shortly afterwards, Johnson said Fayaadh was fiddling with the gun’s safety and pulled the trigger to see if it was on. Instead, a single shot rang out, which struck Suhail, who was sitting across the table from his twin. The injured teen supposedly then darted out of the house. Johnson claimed that the father had neglected to empty the magazine’s live ammunition prior to brandishing the firearm.
The shooting, he said, fractured the family’s “entire lineage” in a split second.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something happen so swift, and so fast, and so devastating with such collateral consequences in one sitting,” he stated.
Aleem Gillard, a known felon with numerous firearms convictions, who himself had been shot multiple times in the past — and had previously been paralyzed following a separate shootout — spent years “playing hard in the streets,” the family’s lawyer said.
“[He was] shot three different times [on] three different occasions by three different people,” Johnson said.
The third shooting supposedly left him immobile.
For years, Suhail and Fayaadh’s mother had reportedly insulated the twins from their father, but recently allowed her estranged husband to reconnect with them.
“These kids had never touched a gun,” Woods, the twins’ elder brother, said. “We keep them so far away from this environment and it’s just traumatizing to see the father would put them in this situation.”
Apart from several past gun convictions and charges, Aleem served prison time for a variety of other crimes, according to online court records. In 1998, he was convicted of simple assault, reckless endangerment, and drunk driving.
In the aftermath of last week’s shooting, the family’s lawyer said the twins’ father also gave the surviving brother and the siblings’ younger sister “marching orders” to lie to police.
“This is a script that he gives the kids,” Johnson said. “The father gathers his two children together — because the third one is now on the ground bleeding — and he tells them this is what we’re going to say. ‘You’re not going to say dad had a gun. You’re going to say it happened outside … somebody drove by, there was a shooting, we don’t know what happened.’”
Police didn’t disclose where or how the teen’s father managed to obtain a firearm, given his criminal history, or whether charges are forthcoming against Aleem Girard.
A spokesperson for Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s office also declined to comment on Monday.
“It’s heartbreaking and it’s astounding,” Shira Goodman, executive director of gun violence prevention nonprofit CeaseFirePA, told Oxygen.com.
Goodman, who said the shooting was “highly preventable,” speculated the gun used to kill Suhail was likely either stolen or purchased illegally on the black market. She, too, called on authorities to investigate Aleem Gillard’s alleged role in his son’s shooting.
“This guy wasn’t even supposed to have a gun,” Goodman said. “Kids are curious and of course kids want to do things that they think are cool and they want their dad to think they’re cool. I don’t think we can put this on the kids.”
More than 100 children and teenagers were shot in Philadelphia this year, at least a dozen of them fatally, according to the Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting.
The brothers, who turned 18 in October, were practically joined at the hip, relatives said.
“Suhail and Fayahd didn’t go anywhere without each other,” Woods, their older brother, said. “They are the same kid.”
The Gillard twins had started their own business prior to Suhail’s death, making and designing hoodies, which they hawked out of their uncle’s bookstore in north Philadelphia.
“Dealing with this new normal is something we have to adjust to but it still seems unreal that our nephew is gone,” the twins’ uncle, Hasan Ford, told Oxygen.com.
Ford described his late nephew as an aspiring entrepreneur, a “monster” athlete, and a “hardworking” student.
“Suhail grew up eating, sleeping, and drinking football and school,” he added. “Suhail pushed and motivated the rest of the children in our family — even some of the adults. He had just the right amount of charisma, caring, and courage.”
Suhail and his brother both attended Mastery Charter’s Lenfest Campus in downtown Philadelphia. The school, which called Suhail’s death a “huge loss,” said their former student had planned to pursue a business degree following graduation.
“We are heartbroken,” Rae Oglesby, a spokesperson for the school, told Oxygen.com. “Suhail was loved by everyone, teachers and students alike. He would stand up for anybody.”
Suhail, a crafty running back who co-captained his high school football team alongside his twin brother, was also recently selected to play in a citywide high school all-star game in the spring.
“It’s very gut-wrenching,” John Davidson, the school’s assistant principal and head football coach, told Oxygen.com. “We based our offense around his skillset — everything we did came off of his ability. He was a motor.”
The late teenager was actively being recruited by a number of northeast colleges and universities, the football coach said.
Fayaadh posted a portion of a $125,000 bond and was released ahead of trial, his legal team said. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18, according to online court records.
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