A Philadelphia man was sentenced Thursday to six to 12 years in state prison after one of his twin sons accidentally shot the other after he encouraged them to play with his gun in an Overbrook apartment two years ago.
Aleem Gillard, 43, pleaded guilty in February to charges of involuntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm. As a felon, he was not permitted to have a gun.
On Dec. 1, 2019, Gillard’s 18-year-old sons and 16-year-old daughter were in his apartment when his sons were playing with his gun, and one son, Fayaadh, fatally shot his brother, Suhail, in the chest.
Chesley Lightsey, supervisor of the DA’s homicide unit, told Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Ransom during a virtual sentencing hearing Thursday that the father encouraged his sons to play with the gun. After the shooting, authorities said, Gillard told his surviving son and daughter to lie to police, telling them the teen was shot while going to a corner store. He also had his daughter hide the gun, she said.
At the time, the twins were seniors and football players at the Mastery Charter School’s Lenfest Campus on Fourth Street in Old City, where Suhail Gillard was described by fellow students as a star football player. They lived primarily with their mother, prosecutors have said.
The District Attorney’s Office initially charged Fayaadh Gillard with murder, possession of an instrument of crime, and lying to authorities. The office dropped the charges after further investigation indicated that the shooting was an accident.
Aleem Gillard had four prior convictions for illegal gun possession, Lightsey said. In the most recent case, court records show, he pleaded guilty in February 2015 to felony firearm-possession charges stemming from a 2013 arrest and was sentenced to 2½ to five months in jail and 10 years’ probation.
A remorseful Gillard told the judge Thursday: “At the end of the day, I was dead wrong. I had a firearm, I shouldn’t have had a firearm, period. My baby wouldn’t be gone, and we wouldn’t be meeting like this.”
Appearing virtually from the city’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, he apologized to his family and to his sons’ maternal grandfather, Bruce Ford, who was the only family member present during the hearing but who declined to comment.
Lightsey asked the judge to sentence Gillard to seven to 14 years in prison. Defense attorney David Glanzberg asked for a sentence of five to 10 years.
“This is one of the most tragic cases I’ve handled in the last 30 years,” Glanzberg told the judge, adding that Gillard accepted responsibility in the case from the beginning.
Regarding the prosecutor’s contention that Gillard ordered his children to lie, Glanzberg said: “I can only imagine how panicked he was and grief-stricken he was on that day.”
In 2013, Gillard was shot and paralyzed and remains in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, his attorney said. Glanzberg said Gillard told him that he had guns because his neighborhood “is not the safest place in the world.”
“Sitting in jail and reminiscing every day about what has happened to his child ... has made him realize the tremendous error of what happened,” Glanzberg said.