Mastery Charter football star to be laid to rest after brother charged with his murder

Cherri Gregg
December 05, 2019 - 4:00 am
Suhail Gillard.

Courtesy of Eastern Pa. Football Conference.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A star football player at Mastery Charter School will be laid to rest Thursday after the 18-year-old was tragically shot and killed on Sunday. 

Suhail Gillard was popular among the seniors at Mastery's Lenfest Campus in Old City. He was three-time all public player. He was headed to the all-star game this winter and led the team to a championship win last year. 

He had a bright future on a college team ahead of him.

"Just a hard worker, man. It's a shame. Just a really good kid, special kid," said John Lay, a teacher at the school who taught Gillard in seventh grade. He's also one of Gillard's football coaches. 

"Agent 4," as Gillard is called because of his effectiveness on the field, was a leader who inspired other players to work hard.

"He's the type of kid that you want on your college campus, that you want on your football team," Lay said. "It just hurts. So today (Wednesday), we came together as a family to support the family and just get through this."

Classmates and teammates of Suhail Gillard marched from Mastery Charter School's Lenfest Campus to Penn's Landing.
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

Lay joined members of the team — who wore their blue-and-white jerseys — plus scores of juniors and seniors from the school, as well as teachers, who solemnly marched from the school near Fourth and Market streets to Penn's Landing on Wednesday afternoon.  

They held a vigil just a few hundred feet from where Suhail would have graduated at the Seaport Museum in May. 

"We did a balloon release in memory of Suhail. It was a simple, just a gesture," said Chris Ziemba, the school's principal. "We need to continue the process of mourning and healing as a community."

Police say Gillard was shot in the chest Sunday evening and was transported to Lankenau Medical Center, where he died a few hours later. Officers arrested 18-year-old Fayaadh Gillard, Suhail's twin brother, on Monday.  

He is now charged with murder, gun possession and other crimes. No other details about the circumstances of the shooting have been released.

"When I heard, I was shocked. It was disbelief," said John Davidson, the head coach of the Lenfest Campus football team. 

He went to the hospital Sunday night. 

"It was a dark moment. It's definitely a tragedy," Davidson added. 

Condolences on the loss of Gillard were all over social media.

Davidson said Suhail had at least one offer to attend college, and others were recruiting him. He played receiver and running back, could play offense and defense, and was the "motor" of the team's offense. 

His coaches say he worked in the gym and grew over the years he played. Davidson said this year he rushed for 1,700 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown during the championship game.  

"He was a magnet," said Davidson. "He was mentor and would make kids laugh."

Davidson said the team is praying for Gillard's mother and the entire family. Many from the school are planning to attend Gillard's funeral in West Philadelphia on Thursday at 11 a.m. to support the Gillard family.