MIAMI — New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who authorities have linked this week to a homicide investigation in Massachusetts, shot out the right eye of an employee after a fight at Tootsie’s Cabaret in Miami Gardens, Fla., according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
The alleged shooting happened in a car that was headed from the strip club to Palm Beach County early on Feb. 13. Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call at 6:47 a.m. to find Alexander Bradley, 30, bleeding from a gunshot wound outside a John Deere store in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Bradley initially refused to tell investigators who shot him, although a police report noted that Bradley would be willing to prosecute his assailant. The criminal case has been classified as inactive.
The lawsuit, first reported by the website TMZ, comes at a time when police in Massachusetts are investigating Hernandez’s possible involvement in the mysterious death of a man described as his acquaintance.
In the south Florida case, Bradley had sued Hernandez, 23, last week, but his lawyers withdrew the complaint four days later due to inaccurate wording. They refiled the civil suit, which seeks more than $100,000 in damages, on Wednesday in U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Florida.
At the time of the shooting, Bradley, who lives in Connecticut, had been working as an assistant to Hernandez, a job he no longer has, said Bradley’s co-counsel, David Jaroslawicz.
The lawsuit contends that Hernandez and Bradley had an argument while at Tootsie’s. They later left in a car with two other men.
At some point on the way north, Bradley claims that Hernandez pointed a gun at him. The gun went off, a bullet striking Bradley in the arm and head. He lost his right eye, underwent multiple facial-reconstruction surgeries, had plates and screws inserted in his face, and “has become substantially disabled,” according to the suit, which also alleges that Hernandez was not licensed to have a gun.
“Was the shooting deliberate or negligent is a question you’ll have to ask Mr. Hernandez,” Jaroslawicz said.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, authorities on Tuesday searched Hernandez’s suburban Boston home after a jogger on Monday discovered the body of Odin Lloyd in a North Attleborough industrial park, which is about a mile from Hernandez’s residence. Lloyd, 27, played football for the semi-professional Boston Bandits.
Reporters staked out Hernandez’s house Wednesday amid media reports about Hernandez’s “likely” arrest, whether he was out drinking with Lloyd the night of Lloyd’s death and if the NFL star had a cleaning crew in his home before police arrived. ABC News reported that a video surveillance system at Hernandez’s home was intentionally smashed, and that his lawyers handed over a shattered cellphone to police.
Hernandez spent part of Thursday being followed by news helicopters while driving in a white SUV from his house to Gillette Stadium to downtown Boston. The scene recalled another football player’s televised ride in a white SUV: O.J. Simpson’s infamous slow-speed chase in a Ford Bronco happened almost exactly 19 years ago, on June 17, 1994, also coinciding with the NBA finals.
The latest incidents are not the first time that Hernandez has been entangled with the law.
Gainesville, Fla., police questioned him in relation to a double shooting in 2007, when Hernandez was a freshman tight end for the University of Florida. Hernandez and a friend were in a nightclub near the crime scene after Florida’s 20-17 loss to Auburn. Police said Hernandez cooperated and was not considered a suspect.
“I know he was at the club but he never saw any shooting,” his mother, Terri Hernandez, told the Orlando Sentinel. “He wasn’t there at the time.”
And Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that Hernandez was involved in a confrontation with a gun on May 18. A New York Jets fan taunted Hernandez outside a Providence, R.I., bar at 2 a.m. Afterward, police saw someone put a gun under a car, but they were unable to determine if that person was with Hernandez or the teasing fan.
Hernandez played tight end for Florida from 2007 through 2009, finishing his college career with 111 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. He left school in 2010 to enter the NFL draft and was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round.
The Patriots last year signed Hernandez to a contract extension that will earn him up to $40 million through 2018, including a $12.5 million bonus, the highest signing bonus for a tight end.
Asked whether the Massachusetts homicide investigation would affect Alexander Bradley’s civil suit against Hernandez, the plaintiff’s lawyer said maybe.
“If it turns out Mr. Hernandez was involved in that incident, then he may not have the funds available to pay my client’s damages after our trial is over,” Jaroslawicz said.