Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was charged Thursday with fatally shooting two Cape Verdean immigrants in July 2012, one week before the star tight end reported to training camp.
Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, friends who worked together as housekeepers, had a “chance encounter” with Hernandez at Cure, a Theatre District nightclub, that ended with Hernandez shooting the two men to death after they left the club and were waiting at a traffic light on Shawmut Avenue, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said Thursday.
Conley and other officials described Abreu and Furtado as innocent victims. The charges against Hernandez were handed up Thursday by a grand jury.
“For us, this case was not about Aaron Hernandez,” Conley said. “This case was about two victims, who were stalked, ambushed, and senselessly murdered on the streets of the city they called home.”
Conley spoke at a press conference at his office, where he announced the indictments.
Two of Hernandez’s lawyers, Charles W. Rankin and James L. Sultan, released a statement in response to the charges.
“Unlike the district attorney, we are not going to try this case in the media,” the statement said. “Under our system of justice, Aaron Hernandez is innocent of these charges, and he looks forward to his day in court.”
Hernandez is already jailed, charged with the fatal shooting of a Dorchester man, Odin Lloyd, a year after Abreu and Furtado were killed.
At the Furtado family home in Dorchester, a cousin, Susan Vicente, said relatives were trying to absorb the news of the charges. “This is a very hard time for all of us,’’ she said.
William T. Kennedy, who is representing the families of Abreu and Furtado in a wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez, said he doubts the victims even knew Hernandez was a player for the Patriots.
“Danny and Safiro were just two very good guys who were just trying to make their way in this world,’’ Kennedy said. “These are just a couple of hard-working guys who had dreams like any other. They worked together cleaning toilets at the Quincy YMCA.’’
It was Lloyd’s shooting that helped Boston police detectives connect Hernandez to the killings of Furtado and Abreu, officials said.
Investigators knew that Hernandez, 24, had been at Cure on July 16, 2012, but initially did not pursue him as a suspect because he had left about an hour before the victims. But when news broke about the Lloyd slaying, Boston detectives took a closer look at Hernandez’s moves that night. They studied earlier surveillance camera footage at the club and on the streets.
According to documents filed in a Connecticut court, video from inside and outside the nightclub shows Hernandez and an acquaintance entering directly behind Abreu and Furtado. Shortly afterward, Hernandez and the other man, identified in court documents as Alexander Bradley, are seen leaving and getting into a silver sport utility vehicle.
Abreu and Furtado and three of their friends left the club around 2:10 a.m., and video shows Hernandez’s silver SUV circling the block as the victims go to their BMW.
Conley said Hernandez pulled up to the car and began firing a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson at the car, striking Abreu, who was driving, in the chest and hitting Furtado in the head. A third man, who was in the back seat, was shot in the arm but survived. The other two friends jumped out of the car. Bradley has not faced charges for having a role in the slayings.
Last June, officers tracked down Hernandez’s silver SUV to a house in Bristol Conn., the home of a cousin of Hernandez, officials said. The cousin, Tanya Singleton, was offered immunity in exchange for her testimony, but Conley said she never showed up before the grand jury. She has been charged with criminal contempt of court.
Singleton is also facing conspiracy and contempt charges in her alleged actions after Lloyd’s killing. Bristol County prosecutors have said she helped an alleged Hernandez accomplice flee and talked about helping another alleged accomplice. She was held for six months in jail and was recently released on bail.
Singleton’s lawyer, E. Peter Parker, decried the contempt charge, saying Singleton faces a resurgence of breast cancer since her release in January.
“This is an aggressive and unnecessary prosecution,’’ Parker said. “She has had numerous health setbacks since her incarceration, and her breast cancer is no longer in remission.’’
Parker declined to say why Singleton failed to appear before the grand jury.
Conley did not describe in detail the encounter between Hernandez and the victims in the double homicide.
At the press conference, he said there were many details of the investigation he could not discuss, but he suggested more would be revealed at Hernandez’s arraignment, which could take place as early as next week.
Kennedy, the attorney representing the victims’ families, has told the Globe that he believes there may have been words exchanged between Hernandez and his accomplice and the victims’ friends. Kennedy has said he did not know if Abreu and Furtado had any contact with Hernandez that night.
The survivors of the shooting have told police that they could not remember problems with anyone that night.
On Thursday, Kennedy described Abreu and Furtado as two young men enjoying a night on the town.
“They went out with a couple of other fellows . . . danced with a couple of pretty girls, had a couple of drinks, and [were heading] home,’’ he said.
Officials would not say whether there is a link between the killings of Abreu and Furtado and that of Lloyd. Officials have not proposed a motive for Lloyd’s killing.
Lloyd was not at Cure nightclub the night that Abreu and Furtado were shot, but investigators have looked into whether Hernandez believed Lloyd knew something about the shooting and had talked to authorities, the Globe has reported, citing law enforcement officials and court records.
Lloyd was killed the same weekend he went out with with Hernandez to Rumor, another nightclub in the Theatre District.
A tipster identifying himself as a security officer at Rumor told police that Lloyd’s killing was directly linked to the unsolved 2012 double killing. According to court documents, the security officer, Sherif Hashem, told police he knew this because “someone accidentally spilled the beans in front of me.”
Court documents also showed that there were Boston police officers at Rumor the night Lloyd was there with Hernandez.
In a motion filed Thursday in Bristol Superior Court, where Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to Lloyd’s murder, one of Hernandez’s lawyers, Sultan, called for Bristol prosecutors to release the names of those Boston officers.
Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley, declined to comment on Sultan’s motion or to answer questions about the presence of police officers at the club, including whether they were interviewed by detectives investigating the slayings of Furtado and Abreu.
A spokesman for District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter declined to comment on whether there is any connection between the killings.
Sultan also asked Judge E. Susan Garsh to dismiss the charges that Hernandez killed Lloyd, arguing that the district attorney’s office had failed to establish probable cause.