Aaron Hernandez was treated like a VIP that July 2012 night when he strode into the Theatre District nightclub and a club employee escorted him and his friend past the line of patrons waiting to get in.
But for months, authorities said, Hernandez had been grumbling about the lack of respect people showed him in Boston clubs.
Hernandez “had become increasingly sensitive and angered by what he believed to be people testing, trying, or otherwise disrespecting him,” said Patrick Haggan, first assistant Suffolk district attorney.
That night at Cure Lounge, Hernandez had had enough, said police. While the former Patriots star stood near the dance floor, Daniel Abreu, dancing nearby, bumped into him, causing him to spill some of his drink. Abreu, who had never met Hernandez, smiled and kept dancing.
Hernandez was livid, said Haggan. At 2:30 a.m. July 16, Hernandez followed the BMW Abreu was driving and fired five shots into the sedan, killing Abreu and his friend Safiro Furtado, Haggan said.
On Wednesday, Hernandez, 25, was arraigned on seven charges, including two counts of first-degree murder in the shootings of Abreu, 29, and Furtado, 28, two Cape Verdean immigrants living in Dorchester who worked for the same cleaning company.
Hernandez, dressed in a navy blue jacket and khaki pants, said not guilty in a clear voice to each of the counts. He was ordered held without bail.
At least a dozen of the victims’s relatives sat in the courtroom, sobbing during much of the proceeding.
“Asesino,” Portuguese for killer, one woman said loudly when Hernandez walked in.
The relatives packed the first two rows, but Hernandez looked past them toward his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, who sat directly behind the families, her face expressionless.
Haggan gave a detailed version of the police investigation in court, describing Hernandez as a man so consumed by the way he perceived strangers were treating him that he essentially stalked Abreu and his friends as they left the club.
Haggan, who said police had scoured surveillance video and talked to witnesses, gave this account of what authorities say transpired that July night and the next morning:
At 10 p.m., Hernandez and a friend left Manchester, Conn., to go clubbing in Boston.
Hernandez brought his gun, a .38-caliber revolver that he stashed in an engine compartment of a silver 2006 Toyota Forerunner sport utility vehicle that a Rhode Island car dealer had loaned to him as part of a promotional agreement.
Hernadez and his friend, whom Haggan did not identify, parked at a garage on Tremont Street. Less than five minutes later, Abreu, who was driving his sister’s 2003 BMW, pulled into the same garage with Furtado and three other friends.
At about 12:30 a.m., the group was waiting in a line to show their IDs and pay a cover charge as Hernandez and his friend breezed past them. Minutes later, as Hernandez held his drink, Abreu brushed by him.
Hernandez told his friend that Abreu deliberately bumped into him and did not bother to apologize. “He is trying me,” Hernandez allegedly said.
As Hernandez became angrier, his friend persuaded him to leave the club. Outside, the friend tried to calm down Hernandez. They went to another club across the street.
Fifteen minutes, Hernandez pointed out a small group of men who had come in and said that Abreu was among them. He told his friend they were following him.
Video surveillance later showed that Abreu and his friends were still at Cure at this time.
Hernandez and his friend went back to the SUV and began driving around the Theatre District. They pulled over, and Hernandez opened the hood to get his gun.
At about 2:10 a.m., Abreu, Furtado, and his friends left Cure, Haggan said in court.
As they walked down Tremont Street toward the garage, Hernandez’s SUV drove slowly past them. The SUV looped around the block, then stopped. Hernandez and his friend got out of the car and watched as the BMW came out of the garage and picked up two of the men in the group who had waited for the car outside.
As the BMW pulled away, Hernandez and his friend got back into the SUV and began following them, running through a red light to catch up.
Abreu, Furtado, and his friends, unaware they were being followed, stopped at a light on Shawmut Avenue and Herald Street.
Hernandez pulled up next to them, rolled down the window, and said, “Yo, what’s up now?”
Hernandez used a racial slur, then allegedly fired. He kept pulling the trigger even after the gun was emptied, Haggan said.
As they drove back to Connecticut, Hernandez allegedly told his friend, “I think I got one in the head and the other in the chest.”
Search warrant affidavits filed in Connecticut have identified Hernandez’s friend that night as Alexander Bradley, who is suing Hernandez for allegedly shooting him in the face in 2013 after they hung out at a Florida nightclub.
After the arraignment, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley described Bradley as a witness. He has not been charged in connection with the 2012 killings. Conley’s spokesman declined to comment on whether Bradley or anyone else is being spared prosecution in exchange for their testimony.
After Haggan spoke, Hernandez’s lawyer, Charles W. Rankin, objected to the “one-sided” recitation, stating the court had allowed the prosecutor to “make a speech.”
“The Commonwealth’s summary serves no other purpose than to poison the jury pool,” Rankin said.
Trial Magistrate Gary D. Wilson responded forcefully, saying there was nothing unusual about Haggan’s statements.
“I’ve conducted over 1,900 arraignments in capital cases in Suffolk County since 1983, and on each occasion a prosecutor has been afforded an opportunity to speak,” Wilson said.
Hernandez is also facing charges in Bristol Superior Court in the 2013 fatal shooting of Odin L. Lloyd of Boston. He has pleaded not guilty.