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Why Reggie Nelson was questioned in '07 shooting

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Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson interacted with two victims from the 2007 shooting in Florida, but was never named as a suspect.

Gregory Shamus

We learned last week that Reggie Nelson was one of several (now former) Florida Gators that were questioned after a 2007 shooting that included the Pouncey brothers and Aaron Hernandez (largely the only reason that this is being brought up presently). According to a Gainesville Sun article dated June 29, the reason that Nelson was questioned (along with the other Gator players) was based on his presence at a nightclub earlier that evening with two people who were later victims of a shooting.

"My memory is that GPD was having a lot of trouble getting cooperation from the Pouncey twins (Mike and Maurkice) in terms of coming down and talking to them. Sooner or later they got their hands on the Pounceys," said State Attorney Bill Cervone. "I never remember hearing Hernandez’s name, or Reggie Nelson. But if they got their hands on them and talked to them, they weren’t hot and bothered by them."

Later that night, Corey Smith, Justin Glass, and Randall Cason left the night club when they were stopped by a traffic light several blocks away. Cason's statement after the shooting, placing him in the back seat, identified Nelson as one of the assailants, but not the shooter. Everyone survived, including Corey Smith who took a shot to the back of his head. Glass was shot in the arm and Cason was uninjured.

ESPN's Outside the Lines digs deeper into the story with Cason identifying Nelson as one of the primary suspects on a police report that night.

Cason, then 20, told police that shooter was a "Hawaiian" or "Hispanic" male who had a large muscular build, stood about 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4, weighed about 230 or 240 pounds and had a lot of tattoos. Cason said there was also a black male with the shooter, and Cason identified the black male as Reggie Nelson, a former Florida Gator who was a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nelson, in an interview with the Gainesville police, said he had been at the nightclub earlier but denied he was even on the same street as the shooting.

"As they were waiting for the light to change, the Hawaiian football player and Reggie Nelson walked up to their car on the right side," according to the police report, which cited what Cason told detectives. "Then without saying a work [sic], the Hawaiian pointed a small handgun in the front right window and fired five quick shots. Cason saw Smith slump over with blood coming out of the back of the head, at which time the Hawaiian and Nelson took off running towards McDonald's."

The police report says that Nelson and Hernandez had been in The Venue nightclub along with two other Gators players, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, twin brothers who now both play in the NFL. After the shooting, investigators interviewed Cason at Shands Hospital. Cason is described as distraught and emotional, and an officer indicated Cason said several times "it should have been him that had been shot and not Cory [sic]." Cason told investigators that a week earlier his brother had gotten into an altercation with several Florida football players.

Nelson told investigators that he was at The Venue with several friends that night. He said he later saw Aaron Hernandez and the Pouncey twins, and Hernandez told him that one of the twins had his necklace snatched by Cason. After the club closed, Nelson said, one of the twins confirmed the story to him. Nelson said he went to speak to Cason, advised that he didn't want any trouble and the two parted on good terms. He said he was not on West University Avenue, the street where the shooting took place, when Smith and Glass were shot.

Neither were, nor have been, named as suspects. But we have to believe that this will receive more scrutiny now with Aaron Hernandez's involvement. Nelson confirmed his interaction with the victims, but there's no evidence (except for Cason's previous statements) that he had anything to do with the shooting.

Two days later, Cason rescinded his statement that placed Nelson and Hernandez at the scene of the shooting.