Back on July 16, 2012, a couple guys, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, went out to a Boston nightclub with three other friends and coincidentally ran into then New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.
The two men weren't gang members, police say, trying to clear up previous reports. They weren't criminals. They weren't anything much, other than a group out on the town. They'd never before met Hernandez, or, it stands to reason, any NFL stars.
By the end of the night both men were shot dead in their car as it sat at a traffic light at a nearby South End intersection.
A Suffolk County (Mass.) grand jury indicted Hernandez with the murder of both Abreu and Furtado on Thursday, calling him the triggerman in the incident. Already in jail awaiting trial for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, the one-time Patriots tight end is now charged with three homicides in two different incidents and, if convicted, would've played the entire 2012 NFL season as a double murderer.
The details of the night are chilling.
Hernandez, the district attorney alleges and previous court documents say, left the Cure nightclub about 1:30 a.m. with a friend, Alexander Bradley, who, it turns out, filed a civil lawsuit last year against Hernandez for shooting him in the eye in a separate incident while they were in Florida.
Surveillance from the club shows Hernandez circling his Toyota 4Runner around the block. About an hour later, Abreu, Furtado and their friends left Cure, climbed into a BMW in a nearby parking garage and headed off.
Police say Hernandez followed them to a nearby corner and after they stopped at the light, he pulled his 4Runner alongside them. He then allegedly fired a .38 caliber pistol repeatedly into the passenger side of their car, leaving two dead, one injured and two others fleeing, authorities say. Hernandez's attorney said he will enter not guilty pleas at an arraignment that will likely take place next week.
Like all violent crime, the entire thing is sad and infuriating.
Each and every murder is awful. Yet these charges come with a different kind of distinction, not a crime of passion, not heat-of-the-moment action, not the murder of someone Hernandez knew, not an act of desperation for a man whose world was crumbling around him. Instead this is the image of a star pro football player calmly hunting down innocent victims on the streets of Boston. All of it just six weeks before he inked a $40 million contract with the Patriots.
"A chance encounter inside the club triggered a series of events," district attorney Daniel Conley said in announcing the indictments.
"For us this case was never about Aaron Hernandez," Conley continued. "It was about two victims who were stalked, ambushed and senselessly murdered on the streets of the city they called home."
Hernandez is already charged with the murder of Lloyd, who last summer was taken behind an industrial park near Hernandez's home south of Boston and shot execution style. A trial is expected in 2015.
This case appears even stronger, despite the full indictment not yet made public and prosecutors minding their words so to not infringe on Hernandez's right to a fair trial in the Lloyd case.
Authorities still have not found a murder weapon or an eyewitness to the Lloyd killing, although surveillance evidence can put Hernandez behind the industrial park and there is a mountain of other evidence.
The double homicide charges, however, are backed by the discovery of the 4Runner Hernandez drove that night gathering dust in a relative's garage in his hometown of Bristol, Conn. Police also obtained the murder weapon in the possession of "an individual with ties to Hernandez," Conley said. A passenger in the Abreu/Furtado car who survived the ambush has fingered Hernandez as the shooter to police.
Authorities said the two cases will be tried separately – they occurred in different Massachusetts counties. The Lloyd killing will go first, allowing for a second trial should Hernandez beat those charges.
Police had investigated the double homicide from the start but had few leads, in part, they said, because Abreu and Furtado had few enemies. Conley, the district attorney, went to great lengths Thursday to praise them as honest citizens in an attempt to reverse previous media accounts that suggested they were part of a Cape Verdean gang in the city's Dorchester neighborhood.
"Anytime we have a murder in this city people automatically think gang activity," Boston police commissioner William Evans said. "[These were] two innocent victims."
It wasn't until Hernandez was shockingly charged with the Lloyd murder did the pieces fit together that he, too, was at Cure that night.
Otherwise, who would suspect a rich, famous NFL star as the gunman?
That's how pathetic the actions charged to Hernandez are. Athletes have killed before. So have movie stars, business titans, lawyers, doctors, singers and so forth. That isn't new. Yet perhaps none of them have been accused of doing it like this.
Hernandez didn't kill a spouse or girlfriend, didn't get caught up in a moment during a fight, wasn't involved in separate criminal activity that needed to be protected. Each of those is unforgivable but at least explainable, and, unfortunately, somewhat common.
No, the indictment suggests he was playing a movie gangster, conducting a drive-by of some guys he met at a club even when there was plenty of time to cool off and realize how fortunate he was and head home. A year later he allegedly executed a friend in the middle of the night.
He was an NFL star with fabulous wealth, a new child in 2013, a safe, oversized home … essentially the American Dream. Yet he's accused of also operating at the center of a murderous group for no apparent reason, like it was a hobby or something, killing men who had no power over him, who posed no threat to him.
We've seen falls from grace before, just perhaps never one quite like this.
Hernandez will get his days in court. Perhaps his victims will get a measure of closure. Many more details will emerge.
Three murder charges in two separate violent outbursts and one thing everyone can hope is that some point during the upcoming trials Aaron Hernandez answers a simple question.
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