200 people gather at vigil for Aaron Hernandez following small funeral service

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BRISTOL — Friends and family members of Aaron Hernandez gathered Monday night in front of a football field where the ex-New England Patriot learned played as a child. In attendance were members of the Bristol community who weren’t invited to attend the small funeral service held earlier in the day.

“This is our way of being able to say our final goodbyes,” said Malique Ritchon, a cousin of Hernandez. He said the vigil was a chance for the community to come together.

“Anybody that may have went to school with him, played against him, played with him, even people that watched him play on the field,” said Ritchon.

Family members say the vigil was a chance to see Aaron Hernandez in a different light. On one side, Hernandez was a Bristol native with a checkered past–eventually leading to a murder conviction. On the other side, he was a hometown hero who held the heart of Bristol in his hands with each memory he left with its residents.

“The Aaron that I know was a good kid,” said Sara Vasquez, a family member. “He was my baby brother so I always saw him like a baby. He was a little, how can I say, Dennis the Menace. He would do his little jokes, but he was special.”

Some community members say this tragedy gave them a road map to keep the next home town star from going down the wrong path.

“I think we’re going to push for our people and we’re going to push for people that have the chance. And we’re going to want them to have that chance,” said Colleen Granger.