BOSTON Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez had a run-in with two men at a Boston nightclub hours before they were killed that evening in July 2012, two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said on Thursday.
Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty to a separate killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in June, has emerged as a focus of the police probe into the unsolved 2012 drive-by slaying in downtown Boston.
The victims in the July 2012 murder, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, were killed in a hail of bullets while driving in a BMW sedan after leaving Cure, a night club in Boston's Theater District.
Investigators have since "locked down" multiple witness accounts that say Hernandez and a group of friends had "displays of tension" with Abreu and Safiro before the two men left the night club, the two law enforcement officials said. They declined to give any further details.
Earlier this week, the Hartford Courant reported that authorities have surveillance footage that shows Hernandez in the night club at the same time as Abreu and Furtado.
A spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, Jake Wark, declined to comment on the alleged links to Hernandez in the case, adding no official suspects have yet been identified.
"We do not discuss evidence in ongoing investigations," he said.
Michael Fee, a lawyer for Hernandez, was not available for comment.
Last month, a grand jury in Massachusetts indicted Hernandez on a charge of first-degree murder and five firearms violations for the June killing of Lloyd. A jogger found Lloyd's bullet-riddled body in an industrial area near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
Lloyd, 27, had been dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée. Prosecutors said Hernandez soured on him a few nights before the body was found, and that the two had argued after Lloyd socialized at a nightclub with people Hernandez disliked.
Before his arrest in the Lloyd case, Hernandez starred as a flashy tight end in the high-powered passing attack of the Patriots, a perennial top team in the NFL. His long-term contract was worth about $40 million.
(Additional reporting and editing by Richard Valdmanis, Bernard Orr)