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Ex-Saints Player Shot Dead in Streets

By Dan Gagnon; For The Clock
On April 24, 2016


Ex-Saints Player Shot Dead in Streets 

Dan Gannon 

For The Clock

Saturday, April 9, marked the 31st homicide in 2016 thus far in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. The victim, however, was a familiar face not only to the city, but also to Saints fans across the country. Former New Orleans Saints Defensive end Will Smith was shot fatally multiple times and his wife, Racquel Smith, was also wounded in the shooting.

Smith was drafted to the team from Ohio State in 2004, where he played his entire professional career in the NFL. The defensive end was one of the captains of the team when the Saints defeated the Colts to win the 2010 Superbowl. He retired from football in 2014.

The accused gunman, 28-year-old Cardell Hayes, is no stranger to football himself as he was also a defensive end who played at Warren Easton High School. Hayes also had a brief stint playing college football at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2004, but later went on to open up his own business.

Details are still emerging about what conspired the night of Smith’s death, but what is known is that around 9:45 p.m., Smith and his wife met up with former teammate, Pierre Thomas, and former New Orleans Police Captain William Ceravolo at the Sake Cafè in the Lower Garden District. From there, the group of friends went on to attend two other clubs in the area. Although toxicology reports are pending, Smith was in the driver seat of his Mercedes SUV and may have been inebriated.

Around 11:45 p.m., Smith’s Vehicle rear-ended a Hummer H2 driven by Hayes. Witnesses and surveillance video reported that accident was nothing more “than a gentle tap” however, Smith took off and a brief chase ensued. Hayes' Hummer eventually caught up to the SUV and slammed into the back of the vehicle, causing Smith’s car to collide with a Chevy Impala driven by a friend of the couple.

That’s when both men exited their vehicles and exchanged words. A bystander reported hearing one of the men saying, “Get out of here or I have a gun.” That’s when Smith walked back to his car and shots were fired, resulting in the death of Will Smith and his wife being wounded by a stray bullet.

Hayes claims he fired out of self-defense, and all of the .45 caliber shell casings found at the scene matched a gun found in his possession. Forensics on the gun are still pending. On Monday in a press conference, police said they recovered a 9mm handgun from Smith’s SUV, and also a revolver loaded and ready to go from Hayes vehicle.

In an odd turn of events, the former NOPD police captain Smith had been dining with earlier had been involved in the shooting death of Anthony Hayes, Cardell Hayes' father, just four months after Hurricane Katrina. It is speculated that Hayes may have been retaliating for his father, but this is unconfirmed.

The NOPD also announced the removal of one of its officers from the case to eliminate bias. His death has been classified as “an isolated road rage incident”. The city’s Police Chief was quoted saying, “One life is over and another is ruined.”


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