BOSTON (WPRI) — “What’s up, [racial slur]?”
It was then, according to testimony on Monday, that Aaron Hernandez shot his gun five times from his Toyota 4Runner, firing inches away from his friend, and killing two men in an adjacent BMW.
The new week brought the expected star witness of the state of Massachusetts’ case against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez: the man the football player Hernandez reportedly shot in the eye in Feb. 2013 to keep him quiet, Alexander Bradley.
Hernandez is accused of shooting and killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in June 2012, after prosecutors say he felt disrespected when one of the men bumped into him at a nightclub in Boston’s South End, spilling his drink.
Journalists for the Boston Herald, WBZ-TV, and WHDH-TV, among other outlets, have been posting minute-by-minute happenings on Twitter from courtroom seats.
Bradley, 34, was driving the vehicle that night when the shooting occurred, he said on the stand Monday. Before Hernandez was drafted into the NFL in 2010, when he couldn’t afford it, Bradley would give him marijuana for free. At the time, they were best friends, as the Herald’s Laurel J. Sweet related from court.
But Hernandez had paranoiac tendencies, Bradley said: “He didn’t really like people staring at him. He had a problem with most things people didn’t have a problem with.”
Bradley ended up buying a gun with $350 that Hernandez gave him.
Cure Lounge, the scene of the shooting, ended up becoming a frequent hangout for the friends.
On the night of July 15, 2012, they had drunk alcohol and smoked marijuana at Bradley’s condo in Connecticut. Before they left, Aaron opened the hood of his Toyota 4Runner and hid the gun in his engine. Bradley drove because he didn’t trust Hernandez’s driving.
After midnight, surveillance video showed de Abreu and Furtado passing by Hernandez and Bradley on a sidewalk.
When they were in the club, Bradley said de Abreu had been the one holding the drink. The spill happened in the middle of dancing, and Bradley termed the splash “just drops.”
But Hernandez was ready to explode.
de Abreu laughed.
Bradley grabbed Hernandez and hustled him out of the building.
The friends went to a second bar — and Hernandez thought the victims had followed him there. Bradley and Hernandez ended up getting back in the car and leaving a parking garage at 1:16 a.m. Hernandez was driving; they pulled over, walked and smoked pot.
After half an hour, Hernandez got the gun from its hiding place in the engine and then put it in the glove compartment. Bradley took the wheel again. “It was almost time for the club to let out,” he said.
Hernandez, in the passenger seat of the 4Runner, told Bradley to roll down his window. “And he put his hand on my chest and said, ‘Watch out.'” He was leaning across Bradley, in the driver’s seat.
In a BMW next to their vehicle was de Abreu, holding a cell phone.
Hernandez yelled to get his attention, and then taunted him. “What’s up now, [racial slur]?”
Bradley had turned to Hernandez. The gun went off five times. And then, clicks: Hernandez had emptied the revolver.
The 4Runner fled down the Massachusetts Turnpike. Aaron Hernandez threw the gun and shells out the window after Massachusetts State Police followed them.
“Did you see that?” Bradley told the jury Hernandez said. He answered, no.
“I hit one in the head and one in the chest.”
But Hernandez wasn’t bragging, Bradley said. Shock was more like it — or panic.
The friends went to Bradley’s girlfriend’s house in Connecticut.
Hernandez turned the television on to a Connecticut television station’s newscast. The shooting had made the morning’s news.
Tanya Singleton, Hernandez’s cousin who eventually succumbed to cancer, showed up and swapped vehicles with Hernandez, leaving a Nissan Maxima and taking the 4Runner. “I remember him telling her to clean the car up,” Bradley said.
Hernandez’s paranoia increased after that: “He thought helicopters were following him.”
Bradley eventually sued Hernandez for shooting him in the eye: Hernandez had invited him down to Florida for a February 2013 Super Bowl party, and when he fell asleep in the back of a Range Rover, Bradley told the jury he woke up to find Hernandez point a gun in his face. The bullet took off part of a finger, went through his head and destroyed the eye.
He didn’t tell police it was Hernandez, he told the jury Monday, because “I didn’t want to tell. I wanted revenge… I wanted Mr. Hernandez’s life.”
In February 2016, the lawsuit over the gunshot was settled out of court, with no terms disclosed.
In the coming days, Hernandez’s lawyers are expected to build a case that Bradley, not Hernandez, fired the gun — and that the motive was a drug deal gone sour.
Hernandez is serving a life sentence for killing semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in North Attleboro in 2013.