Aleem Gillard, 42, was arrested and will face charges including involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, according to a release from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
Gillard was charged after his teenage son, Suhail Gillard, 18, was fatally shot by his twin brother inside his father's apartment in Overbrook on Dec. 1. Suhail died after his twin brother, Fayaadh, was handling a gun when it accidentally went off.
Fayaadh was initially arrested by authorities for the fatal shooting, but those charges were droped.
"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.
Instead, prosecutors say the blame for the fatal shooting lies with their 42-year-old father, who encouraged his children to handle the gun shortly before the shooting, then, later told his two surviving children to lie to investigators about the incident.
“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.”
Because Aleem is a convicted felon, he was not legally allowed to have firearms in his home, prosecutors say.
Suhail and his brother Fayaadh both played on their high school's football team at Mastery Charter High School and both were recently awarded 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," Voci added.