HARTFORD, Conn. — Dennis J. Hernandez, the troubled older brother of the late NFL player Aaron Hernandez, was charged in a federal courtroom on Friday with new counts of threatening and stalking, after authorities say he threatened to shoot up the University of Connecticut and kill three people in another state.
Hernandez was ordered to be held in custody after his appearance Friday in a Hartford courtroom. The new charges come less than two weeks after he was arrested on July 18 on state charges of second-degree threatening, second-degree breach of peace, and second-degree failure to appear in court.
The 37-year-old, who is also known as “DJ” and Jonathan, had sent threatening messages through Facebook Messenger, including messages about carrying out a shooting at UConn, where he was previously a quarterback, wide receiver, and two-time team captain in the mid-2000s.
“I would recommend remaining away from there because when I go I’m taking down everything. And don’t give a f--- who gets caught in the crossfire. I’ve died for years now and now it’s others people turn,” Hernandez wrote in one of the messages shared by the US Attorney’s Office in Connecticut. “I’m prepared to give my life. So if I don’t get to see you on the outside know I love you always. Not all shootings are bad I’m realizing. Some are necessary for change to happen.”
On July 7, around the time Hernandez sent these messages, his vehicle was allegedly identified on UConn’s Storrs campus. Hernandez also reportedly traveled to Brown University in Providence, R.I., this month, to “map the schools out,” to allegedly carry out a mass shooting.
Hernandez worked as a quarterbacks coach at Brown for one season during the 2011-12 academic year. He also coached high school football in Southington, Conn., in 2010, and in Ledyard, Conn., in 2017. In 2018, he resigned from coaching to pursue a career in writing.
Related to these these new charges, Hernandez made a number of public Facebook posts that threatened to harm or kill three individuals who live outside of Connecticut on July 18 and 19, according to federal authorities. In a text message to one of the victims, Hernandez wrote, “We’re taking lives if s--- isn’t paid up. It’s been years in planning just taking notes, names and locations.
“They talked their way into this and it’s almost point game. I know we don’t play in my family. If we have to take lives or buildings we will,” continued Hernandez. “So just letting you know so you can be prepared for a media circus one way or another.”
It’s unclear where the people Hernandez threatened are located.
Charges of transmitting interstate communications containing a threat to injure, and interstate stalking, each carry a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. These new charges come after a string of recent incidents with police.
During his arrest at a home in Bristol, Conn., on July 18, police said he threatened to kill officers and then urged them to shoot him at his home. He was tasered, which was captured on police body cam footage, and later transported to a local hospital for evaluation. Two unidentified children, 12 and 5, were in the home and safely evacuated during Hernandez’s standoff with police. His relationship to the children has not yet been identified.
During the evaluation, Hernandez allegedly made multiple threats to kill “anyone who profited off of his brother Aaron,” but did not specifically name any people.
Hernandez’s brother and former New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez, killed himself in 2017 in a prison cell while serving a murder sentence. Aaron Hernandez was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player, and was found not guilty in a double homicide in Boston. The court proceedings received intense media coverage.
In 2018, Dennis Hernandez published a memoir titled, “The Truth About Aaron: My Journey to Understand My Brother.” Hernandez, who is three years older than the late star football player, chronicled how his life was flipped upside-down by his brother’s demise and wrote, “I was guilty by association — guilty of being his brother.”
Hernandez’s failure to appear charge earlier this month stemmed from a missed a court appearance in New Britain Superior Court on July 7 after he was scheduled to go before a judge for his arrest in March when he allegedly took an Uber to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and threw a brick onto the property. Attached to the brick, the Associated Press reported at the time, was a note that said it was time the company realized the effect the “media has on all family members.” An anonymous complaint to Bristol police also reported being concerned about Hernandez, who had allegedly said he wanted to destroy property at the Connecticut Capitol.
Hernandez is expected back in state court Tuesday and in federal court Aug. 11. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Neeraj N. Patel.
Hernandez is still under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bristol Police Department since being detained in state custody in Connecticut.