The father of a standout high school football player was arrested and charged in connection with the accidental, fatal shooting of his son by the teen's twin brother, Philadelphia prosecutors said Friday.
Aleem Gillard, 42, will face charges that include involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of child and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced.
Suhail Gillard, 18, died after he was shot once in the chest inside his father's apartment in the Overbrook neighborhood on Dec. 1, authorities said.
He and his twin brother, Fayaadh, were handling a gun when it accidentally went off, officials said. Fayaadh was originally arrested and charged before all counts against him were dismissed.
"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,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.
The prosecutor instead pinned blame on the brothers' father Aleem, saying he encouraged his children to handle the gun and later told his two surviving children to lie to investigators.
“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," Krasner said.
"Not only did Aleem Gillard encourage his children to handle a deadly weapon, 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. Aleem Gillard must now answer for the reckless, criminal behavior that resulted in the death of his child.”
Aleem Gillard is a convicted felon and should not have had firearms, according to prosecutors.
His sons were both seniors and football players at Mastery Charter High School and were recently given first-team All-Public League honors.
"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,” said Anthony Voci, supervisor of the district attorney's homicide unit.
“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.”
It wasn't immediately clear on Friday if Aleem Gillard had retained a lawyer by Friday afternoon.