Authorities investigating former New England Patriots layer Aaron Hernandez want to question Miami Dolphin center Michael Pouncey about a gun Hernandez is shown holding in a photograph taken while both were students at the University of Florida, a law enforcement official said today.
Hernandez is currently being held without bail on charges of first-degree murder and multiple firearms offenses stemming from an investigation into the murder of Odin L. Lloyd, a Dorchester man shot to death in North Attleborough on June 17.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his defense team has said that he is wrongly accused in the killing of the amateur football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
Massachusetts State Police were in Foxborough Sunday, where the Dolphins played the New England Patriots. Following the game, troopers handed Pouncey a grand jury subpoena issued by the Bristol County panel investigating Hernandez and his alleged allies, an incident first reported by Sports Illustrated.
According to the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, investigators believe Pouncey may be able to provide information about a photograph Hernandez took of himself in 2009 when both were members of the University of Florida Gators football team.
The photo, published on the Internet by TMZ.com earlier this year, was taken by Hernandez on his cellphone. In it, he is standing in front of a large mirror with a Glock pistol in his hand, a weapon that law enforcement officials believe may be a .45-caliber pistol.
Lloyd, according to Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, was shot to death with a .45-caliber pistol. While Sutter and State Police have allegedly linked Hernandez to other firearms, none of them are .45 caliber pistols and none have been identified as the Lloyd murder weapon, according to court records.
A spokesman for Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter today would neither confirm nor deny that Pouncey was served with a grand jury subpoena on Sunday. Gregg Miliote said prosecutors are banned by law from discussing any matter connected to the closed-door investigation by a grand jury.
Hernandez, Michael Pouncey and Pouncey’s twin brother, Maurkice, have been close friends since all three arrived at the Florida university in 2007. When the Pounceys’ stepfather lost his leg in a tragic work accident during the 2008 season, Hernandez drove two hours to Lakeland to be with the family.
This summer, the Pouncey twins were criticized after being photographed wearing “Free Hernandez” hats in a night club.
Maurkice Pouncey, who later tweeted an apology, plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are scheduled to play the Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday. However, it is unlikely that Maurkice will be at Foxborough because he is out for the season with a knee injury.
While investigators continue to search for the murder weapon, they have also indicated in court papers that they are investigating how Hernandez ally, Ernest G. Wallace, allegedly obtained firearms in Florida that authorities later found in New England.
As a convicted felon, Wallace could not legally buy firearms. But during a court hearing in July, Bristol prosecutors said there was circumstantial evidence that Wallace obtained the firearms from a store near Miramar, Fla., where his parents, whom he often visited, lived.
One .22-caliber pistol was recovered last spring after an incident at a Providence nightclub where several fans taunted Hernandez. Police said they observed a man matching Wallace’s general description throw a .22-caliber pistol under a car and flee.
A second .22 pistol was found in a wooded area about halfway between the industrial park where Lloyd was shot to death and where his body was found and Hernandez’s North Attleborough home. Both firearms were traced back to the gun shop in Florida.
Hernandez is also charged with illegal possession of a loaded FEG Hungarian rifle that was inside a gym bag found in the back seat of a car parked in the driveway of Hernandez’s North Attleborough home.
Hernandez was not authorized by Massachusetts officials to own firearms.
Attorneys for Hernandez and Wallace could not be reached for comment or declined to comment.
Authorities allege that Hernandez, Wallace, and a third man, Carlos Ortiz, picked up Lloyd at Lloyd’s Dorchester residence in the predawn hours of June 17 and drove him to an industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough where he was shot to death.
Wallace and Ortiz have both been charged with being accessories after the fact of murder and are being held on high cash bail. They have both pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Globe has reported that Hernandez is also being investigated for the 2012 murders in Boston’s South End of two friends, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who were shot to death after spending a night at a Boston nightclub.
Hernandez has not been charged in the double murder.