A Philadelphia father was teaching his twin sons how to load and aim a firearm when one of the teens fatally shot his brother in the chest, according to their family.
Fayaadh Gillard, 18, was charged with murder in connection with the death of his twin, Suhail Gillard, but other family members said the charges are based on a false narrative concocted by their father, who allegedly told them to lie about the circumstances in an effort to protect himself from potential prosecution.
“My mother allowed them to visit their father after keeping them away because of the type of person he is,” Nafis Woods, the twins’ older brother, who was not present at the shooting, told ABC News. “He doesn’t have much to show them far as being an idol, so he decided to show them guns out of all things — the thing that we try to keep them far away from.”
“These are kids that listen to their parents, they’re not disobedient or dishonest. They’re like babies,” he added.
Officers responded to a call about a shooting on Dec. 1 at around 5:30 p.m. and found Suhail suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. He was transported to Lankenau Medical Center by police and pronounced dead hours later.
Fayaadh initially told police that his brother had been shot by an unknown assailant, but he admitted to pulling the trigger when officers told him that Suhail died during surgery, the family’s attorney said. His father, who is a convicted felon, allegedly told him to say Suhail had been shot elsewhere, not inside his apartment and not with his father’s gun, according to the family. The twins’ father is currently on probation and is prohibited from possessing firearms.
Investigators have not revealed any details about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, but family members said they’re confident that no foul play was involved.
“He demonstrated how to load and unload the gun and then he handed it to Fayaadh and told him to do the same thing and it accidentally went off. He was clearly inexperienced with even touching a gun,” Woods, 23, said. “My baby sister was also there. She said they everyone started screaming and hollering when it happened.”
Woods said his siblings, including his 16-year-old sister Hassinah, were instructed to walk the wounded teen down several flights of stairs to the building’s lobby before calling for help, wasting precious moments that could have saved his brother’s life.
“He made sure they understood to tell a detailed and specific lie to make sure that he was covered,” Woods said. “He even made them walk down flights of stairs to the lobby of the place to make it seem as if it didn’t happen in the apartment so that he wouldn’t get in trouble.”
ABC News spoke to Aleem Gillard to ask for his account of the shooting, but he declined to comment. The family said he attended his son’s funeral on Thursday, but they were too angry to speak to him.
“As a family, our desire is that their father acknowledges the role that he played and takes for this tragedy — to make it clear to police that it was an accident and to make it clear where the firearms came from,” their uncle, Hasan Ford, told ABC News. “We want him to acknowledge that his children were following his tutelage, his instruction and his advice. He needs to tell the truth and let everyone know that every decision that they made was only as a result of him and his ideas and his intent.”
“These kids are the farthest that you can imagine from being involved in any form of street life. Their father is involved knee-deep into that life, so for him, this is his way of showing his children that he is somebody,” he added.
Aleem Gillard, 42, has a lengthy criminal record and has pleaded guilty to charges of assault, reckless endangerment, illegal gun possession, criminal conspiracy and other crimes dating back to the 1990s, court records show.
He is also paralyzed from the waist down due to gun violence.
Attorney Shaka Johnson, who is representing the family, said investigators showed them video from the slain teen’s Instagram story, showing his father dancing in his wheelchair with one of his two pistols in his hand.
“To hand a gun to a kid and just run through a quick show-and-tell is probably the single most reckless thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. He eventually left them to their own devices with the loaded gun while he went to the bathroom,” Johnson told ABC News.
Fayaadh has been charged with third-degree murder in his brother’s death, but Johnson said he is seeking to have him fully exonerated and his father charged instead.
“If you set into motion a series of events that are reckless and likely to cause death, that’s enough to charge a person with murder,” Johnson said. “I’ve spoken with the DA’s office and I wouldn’t be surprised if they charged him with third-degree murder, and they’ll probably hold him without bail.”
Fayaadh was released on $125,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. He was able to attend his brother’s funeral, but the family said he’s weighed with the guilt and barely speaking.
“This young man will have to go through life with a black cloud over him. He’s going to need therapy for years and years to come,” Johnson said. “Imagine what graduation is going to be like for this kid when they get to his brother’s name.”
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Family members said the twins were “like the same person” and had never spent a night without each other. Their lives were all about their brotherhood, academics and football, the family said.
John Davidson, assistant principal and head football coach for Mastery Charter School Lenfest Campus, where the brothers were both seniors, said the loss had shaken the school community. He described the brothers as “scholar athletes” who were fielding college offers from several schools.
“They always stood together in times of battle. They loved each other dearly and they were always loyal,” Davidson said. “These were loving brothers. They were significant in our football program, they were significant in our school and they were typical high school young men.”
Davidson said the brothers had attended the charter school since seventh grade and were Philadelphia all-stars and Suhail was a three-time All-Public League player and also a member of the school’s track team.
The school hosted a balloon-releasing ceremony for Suhail at Penn’s Landing, the waterfront park where the school is scheduled to hold its senior graduation later this year. The school is also planning to present the teen’s mother with a trophy and jersey in the near future, according to Davidson.
He said he was encouraged by the outpouring of love for Suhail at his funeral last week.
“It was truly a powerful sight. You had two lines that went around the corner at his viewing. It was a sea of people out there to pay their respects to the family,” Davidson said. “It was a heartfelt display from the city of Philadelphia for this young man.”
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