Aaron Hernandez was probed by Fla. police for punching waiter in 2007 college incident; Tim Tebow was a witness

Police in Gainesville, Fla., confirmed today that they investigated former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez in 2007 in two cases, including an altercation at a restaurant that was witnessed by current Patriots player Tim Tebow, who was then Hernandez’s teammate at the University of Florida.

The Globe has previously reported that Hernandez was investigated, but never charged, by Gainesville police in connection with a 2007 shooting.

New documents obtained by the Globe today show that Hernandez and Tebow were interviewed by police after Hernandez admitted to punching a waiter at a restaurant near the university’s campus in 2007.

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Police said the two incidents that year were the only times Hernandez’s name appears in their records.

Hernandez, who went on to star as a tight end for the Patriots, has been under scrutiny recently because he faces a charge of murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home. The Patriots cut Hernandez June 26, hours after his arrest.

According to a police report about the Gainesville punching incident, Hernandez was involved in an altercation at The Swamp, a restaurant near the University of Florida campus, just after 11 p.m. on May 4, 2007.

According to the report, provided to the Globe by the Orlando Sentinel, Hernandez and Tebow and another man were together in the restaurant.

Hernandez, then 17, told police that a waitress brought him two alcoholic beverages. He was later presented a bill by Michael Taphorn, a waiter at the restaurant. Hernandez said that he had not ordered the drinks and refused to pay. He then called Tebow over to intervene.

After he left the restaurant, Hernandez told police, Taphorn followed him and “got in his face,” according to the police report. He admitted that as Taphorn turned to walk away, he punched him in the head with his right fist.

Tebow and the second witness both told police the waiter was being irrational.

“Tebow said he stepped in to try to keep [Hernandez] from getting in trouble, since he is a football player, and the victim knew he was a player,” the officer’s report states, adding that Tebow was concerned his name would be reported in the media as having been involved in the incident.

Taphorn, who today did not respond to requests for comment, refused medical treatment at the scene but later sought treatment for a burst eardrum.

The officer who interviewed Hernandez noted that he was “very polite and professional.”

“He and Tebow both said they had already called Coach Urban Meyer and advised him of their involvement in the incident,” the officer wrote.

Police recommended that Hernandez be charged with felony battery; it is unclear how the case was settled. The incident was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The University of Florida Police Department said a records search uncovered only one incident involving Hernandez — and in that incident, he featured as a victim.

Hernandez was one of five players who had money and property stolen from the football locker room. Hernandez reported having $200 stolen from a pair of pants he had left in the locker room in September 2008.

After an investigation, police arrested Robert Lee McCoy, 53, of Gainesville and ordered him to pay Hernandez restitution.

In addition to the June murder in North Attleborough, Hernandez is also being investigated in a July 2012 double homicide in Boston’s South End in which two men died in a drive-by shooting, law enforcement officials have told the Globe.

And he is being sued in federal court in Florida by a Connecticut man who claims Hernandez shot him in the face in February after an argument at a Miami strip club. Hernandez had not yet filed a response to the lawsuit today.

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