Another day, another Aaron Hernandez story: ESPN's Kelly Naqi, writing under the Outside the Lines aegis, reported early Wednesday that Massachusetts police reached out to the Gainesville Police Department to determine what role Hernandez had in a 2007 shooting in Gainesville.
Naqi's report also extensively referenced a police report about that shooting, which GPD Public Information Officer Ben Tobias initially wrote was not released to the public, before clarifying that it was "released in error by a clerk." The report is now public record, and you can read it on the Gainesville Police Department website (PDF) or in the embedded window at the bottom of this post.
The important, one-read details:
- Former Florida player Reggie Nelson and Hernandez were both identified to police by Randall Cason, a witness of the early morning shootings of Corey Smith and Jeremy Glass on September 30, 2007, as involved parties in the shooting.
- Cason also indicated that Nelson's black Chevy Tahoe was involved in the incident, but that Nelson "did not have the gun, he was just there." (Nelson's SUV is identified as both a Chevy Tahoe and a GMC Denali in the report.)
- Cason told police that Nelson and a "Hawaiian" man approached the Ford Crown Victoria he and the two victims of the shooting were in, that the "Hawaiian" man fired approximately five shots into the vehicle, and that both fled after the shooting.
- A bullet struck Smith in the head, causing a life-threatening injury, and Glass in the arm. Both victims survived, and the investigation is thus classified as an attempted murder.
- Nelson, then a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, denied involvement in the shooting, but told police that on the night of September 30, while at Gainesville nightclub The Venue, Hernandez told him of an incident in which one of the Pounceys (Nelson cannot tell them apart, he told police) had a necklace stolen by Cason, which one of the Pounceys later corroborated. Nelson additionally told police that he had a conversation with Cason at The Venue, which ended with Cason saying the necklace had been given away, and that he was not present at the site of the shooting.
- Hernandez — whose name is redacted in the report, as he was a 17-year-old juvenile at the time of the shooting and investigation, but who is presumably the person referred to as "Hawaiian" throughout the report — invoked his right to counsel when contacted by police.
- When re-interviewed by police on the evening of September 30, Cason rescinded his identifications of Nelson and Hernandez.
There's a lot to read here, and it sounds like there was, for sure, a chain snatched off one of the Pounceys, but my reading suggests there's nothing concrete connecting that chain-snatching and the shooting. Cason rescinding his identifications of Nelson and Hernandez probably did plenty to help scuttle a full investigation into the case, which remains open, but it is a puzzling note in the investigation report, and is probably more fully explained in a report that is alluded to but not included in GPD's release of the full report.
GPD took to Twitter last weekend to clarify its findings on Hernandez's role in the case:
RUMOR CONTROL: Aaron Hernandez was interviewed by #GPD in 2007 following a shooting incident. He was not a suspect in the case.— Gainesville Police (@GainesvillePD) June 27, 2013
Nelson was not a representative of Florida's program at that point, except in the sense that he had been a Florida player recently, but Hernandez certainly was, and the shooting took place just hours after Florida's September 29 loss to Auburn, the Gators' first loss of the Urban Meyer era at home; if nothing else, multiple Florida players showing up in a nightclub hours after a loss is sure to rankle some fans.
Beyond that, I really don't know what to make of this, or how to feel about it. I think it seems worse than it probably is, but you're welcome to read the report and ESPN's reporting and draw your own conclusions.