During an arraignment on Wednesday, the Suffolk County district attorney's office presented its evidence that it said shows former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez shot and killed two men in Boston in 2012.
The district attorney said Hernandez was upset about getting bumped by a patron of a nightclub, which spilled his drink. The victim had no idea there was even a problem with Hernandez or anyone else before he was shot hours later, according to the D.A.
Hernandez, appearing in the Suffolk County Courthouse in handcuffs, verbally pleaded not guilty to seven counts including two counts of first-degree murder.
On May 15, Hernandez was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of first-degree murder from a shooting in Boston in 2012, an incident that was unrelated to the shooting of semipro football player Odin Lloyd in 2013. Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder in the Lloyd case and is awaiting trial.
On July 16, 2012, Daniel de Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, were shot and killed while waiting at a stoplight following a night at a club. An SUV pulled up along their car and shot into it.
Suffolk County first assistant district attorney Patrick Haggan told the court during the arraignment (which was broadcast on NFL Network) of the "significant evidence" that had been collected against Hernandez, including video surveillance, forensic testing and eyewitness accounts. He said the evidence establishes that Hernandez shot and killed two men and injured a third with a .38-caliber revolver.
Haggan said the sequence of events began when Hernandez and an associate went to a Boston club in an SUV he was using as a promotional deal. Before leaving his home, Hernandez placed a revolver into the engine block of the car where it was "hidden but easily accessible," according to Haggan.
Haggan said in the months before the shooting, evidence suggests Hernandez was "increasingly sensitive and angered" by people "testing, trying or otherwise disrespecting him" when he went to nightclubs in the Boston area.
The victims and Hernandez happened to enter The Cure nightclub at the same time, but there was no interaction, Haggan said. Only a few minutes after the groups entered the club, de Abreu accidentally bumped into Hernandez on the dance floor, partially spilling Hernandez's drink.
"The defendant became angered and increasingly agitated, particularly after Mr. de Abreu smiled and did not apologize," Haggan said.
There was no argument or physical contact after that, and the security personnel at the club had no idea Hernandez was upset or agitated over the incident, according to Haggan. Also, de Abreu had no idea Hernandez was angry, Haggan would later say. According to Haggan, Hernandez told his friend that de Abreu bumped him on purpose "and was, 'trying him.'" Hernandez's friend convinced him to leave the club just 10 minutes after they got there, and Hernandez's friend tried to calm him for five minutes as Hernandez paced back and forth outside. Hernandez and his friend then went to a club across the street. Haggan said Hernandez again told his friend (when he mistakenly identified another group at the second club as de Abreu and his friends) that he was being "targeted and disrespected" by de Abreu.
Hernandez and his friend left the second club and drove around the immediate area. Haggan said evidence suggests at some point Hernandez pulled over and retrieved the loaded revolver from the engine block. Shortly after de Abreu, Furtado and their friends left the club, Hernandez's SUV was seen on surveillance video driving by the victims entering the parking garage, Haggan said. The victims left the parking garage, picked up two friends, and Hernandez's SUV followed the car, eventually driving alongside it at an intersection.
"At this time, the victims were completely unaware that there was any problem with the defendant or anyone else, and were similarly unaware they were being followed," Haggan said. "The defendant's SUV pulled up close alongside the passenger side of the victim's car. The defendant leaned out of the driver's side window of the SUV with a loaded revolver in his hand, extended out, and stated, 'Yo, what's up now?' and then a racial slur. The defendant immediately fired at least five rounds from a .38-caliber revolver into the victim's car."
Hernandez continued to pull the trigger of the gun even after all the bullets have been fired, witnesses said according to Haggan. Later that morning, Hernandez watched the news and searched the Internet for news of the Boston shooting, Haggan said.
A month later, the Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year contract extension that was potentially worth $40 million. He played 10 games for New England the ensuing season.
The SUV from that night was taken to the Bristol, Conn., home of Hernandez's cousin and kept in the garage, Haggan said. The dealership that let Hernandez use the SUV tried to contact Hernandez repeatedly to get the promotional car in for servicing or be replaced with a newer vehicle. In the fall, Hernandez offered to purchase the SUV, Haggan said. The SUV was found at his cousin's house on June 26, 2013 by law enforcement officials investigating the Lloyd shooting. It appeared it had not been driven in a long time and the interior had been thoroughly cleaned, Haggan said.
On June 21, 2013, Massachusetts State Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver during an inventory search of a car following a collision, and forensic testing showed it was likely the murder weapon. The operator of that car is from Bristol, Conn., and has connections to Hernandez, Haggan said.
When Haggan was done, Hernandez's attorney Charlie Rankin objected to the court letting the district attorney's office give a "speech" with what it says is the evidence against Hernandez, in order to "play to the assembled media" and poison the jury pool.
"The court has just played along with that," Rankin said. "This is not supposed to be a spectacle."
Rankin talked about "wild and extravagant stories" told by sources to the media about Hernandez.
Gary Wilson, the Suffolk County Clerk Magistrate, said he had presided over 1,900 cases and it was not unusual to offer the district attorney the opportunity to speak and present facts.
The next hearing on the case will be June 24.
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