Moments after Daniel de Abreu was shot in the chest, his friends tried to comfort him as he struggled to breathe.
“I was trying to tell him, ‘Just keep strong. We’re going to try to look for help. Don’t panic,’ ” Aquilino Freire said Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court.
Freire testified in the trial of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star charged with killing de Abreu and Safiro Furtado as they sat in a BMW in Boston’s South End during the early morning hours of July 16, 2012.
Freire and two other occupants of the BMW survived the attack.
While de Abreu briefly clung to life before he stopped breathing, Furtado died immediately from a gunshot wound to the head, Freire testified.
Prosecutors say Hernandez was in the front passenger seat of a Toyota 4Runner when it pulled alongside the BMW at a stoplight. Hernandez allegedly sprayed the BMW with gunfire.
Freire testified that he heard a man’s voice in the 4Runner say, “What’s up, negroes,” before the shooting started.
Defense attorney Jose Baez noted on cross-examination that Freire told a grand jury days after the shooting that “someone inside that car looked like a woman — a woman.”
Freire also made no mention of the “negroes” comment in 2012 but instead testified that he heard someone in the 4Runner say “some stuff like ‘How you guys doing’ ” before the gunshots, Baez said, while referencing a transcript.
Freire, a native of Cape Verde, said his English has improved since 2012, and prosecutor Patrick Haggan reminded him that he relayed the “What’s up, negroes” comment during later pretrial testimony.
Another BMW occupant who survived, Raychides Gomes-Sanches, testified that he also urged de Abreu to hang on after being shot.
“Danny, I’m here, man, don’t die,” Gomes-Sanches said he told de Abreu. “He died in my hands.”
Gomes-Sanches said he was “in a panic” after the attack and had blood all over his clothes.
He said he walked away from the scene instead of seeking out police because he “wanted to know what’s really happening.”
A cab driver dropped Gomes-Sanches off at his girlfriend’s home around 5 a.m., he said, and he later burned his bloodied clothes.
“It was stressful for me,” Gomes-Sanches said of the clothing. “It made me remember everything.”
Judge Jeffrey Locke sustained a defense objection when Haggan asked Gomes-Sanches, also a native Cape Verdean, if the burning was “part of your culture.”
Gomes-Sanches said he gave a recorded statement to Boston police later that afternoon. Locke suspended his testimony Wednesday over a legal issue regarding the police interview.
Gomes-Sanches is expected back on the witness stand Thursday.
Prosecutors say Hernandez became enraged when de Abreu bumped into him at Cure Lounge, causing him to spill his drink, a couple hours before the shootings.
Jaime Furtado, a Cure bouncer, testified Wednesday that he saw Hernandez and de Abreu have a brief encounter as both men walked downstairs to the club.
“It was quick words,” Furtado said. “Nothing derogatory.”
Soon after, he said, Hernandez approached him with “a fan” and asked if the bouncer could take a picture of them in a back area of the club.
Furtado took the picture and Hernandez left a few minutes later, he testified.
“Did [Hernandez] seem angry, like he wanted to kill somebody?” Baez asked on cross examination.
“No,” the bouncer replied.
Another Cure security staffer, Ugochukwu Ojimba, testified that he saw Hernandez by the main bar with a friend, talking with two people later identified as de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
“It caught my attention,” Ojimba said, adding that it was not common to see “two gentlemen standing face to face with [friends] over their shoulder.”
Ojimba said he moved on after determining there was no problem.
He told defense lawyer Ronald Sullivan on cross examination that none of the four men shoved anyone or showed an aggressive demeanor.
After Cure closed about two hours later, Jaime Furtado and Ojimba were riding in a car when they came upon a startling discovery.
They pulled up to the intersection of Herald Street and Shawmut Avenue, where the BMW was visible with its doors open and its windows shattered.
Ojimba testified that he saw de Abreu and Furtado suffering from gunshot wounds to the chest and head.
Haggan asked if Ojimba recognized the victims.
He said they were “the two men I saw interacting with Aaron Hernandez earlier.”
Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the June 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd. The state’s highest court will automatically review his first-degree murder conviction in that case at a later date.