Ex-New Orleans Saints Star Will Smith Was Shot Seven Times

Former-New-Orleans-Saints-DE-Will-Smith-Shot-Dead-in-New-Orleans

On the night of Dec. 26, 2005, at a Walgreen’s in the Garden District of Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, 38-year-old Anthony Hayes got into a loud dispute with a cashier when his credit card was declined.

An off-duty sheriff’s officer saw him leave the store with a knife in his hand—a small knife, according to reports— and called the New Orleans police.

According to a subsequent lawsuit filed by Hayes’ two children,

“several witnesses”

told police that Hayes had a history of mental illness.

At least six policemen surrounded him on St. Charles Avenue and ordered him several times to drop the knife.

One of the officers got close enough to pepper spray him.

The officers of the budget-challenged NOPD didn’t have a Taser among them.

When Hayes charged at Lt. William Ceravalo, three of the officers—not Ceravalo—thought their only recourse was to shoot Hayes, which they proceeded to do nine times.

Six months after the shooting, Hayes’ children, Cardell, then 18, and Tyiece Baptiste-Howard, filed a lawsuit seeking $4 million in damages.

At the time, Cardell was a prep-school football star at Warren Easton High School, ranked among the top Louisiana prospects and included on Scout.com’s Louisiana Fab 50 for the Class of 2005.

Some who knew him would later say that the combination of the de-emphasis on football in the wake of Katrina—the New Orleans school district was closed the entire school year—and the shock of his father’s death derailed his dreams of a football career.

Cardell Hayes’ ambition was to play on the defensive line for the New Orleans Saints, who that year were one of the few sources of inspiration for the community, though they were forced to play their home games in Baton Rouge and even San Antonio.

The standout on the Saints defensive line in 2005 was Will Smith, who had been a rookie the season before.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1981 and raised in Utica, in upstate New York, Smith was a natural football player.

The top defensive line prospect in the state and the 18th pick in 2004 NFL draft, he was heavily recruited by more than a dozen top football programs, including Alabama and Notre Dame.

He chose Ohio State, where he earned a national championship ring in 2002.

Even as a rookie in New Orleans, Smith loved the city and began work with several organizations that helped troubled youth, a problem that exploded in the aftermath of Katrina.

The Hayes lawsuit against the NOPD was finally settled in 2011.

Cardell and his sister had initially asked for $4 million, were offered $80,000 each, made a counteroffer of $125,000 each and settled for an undisclosed amount.

With his share of the money, did Cardell Hayes purchase the orange Hummer H2 that he was often seen driving around town?

This past Saturday night, about 11:30 p.m., Hayes was driving his Hummer on Sophie Wright Place in the Garden District when he allegedly rear-ended a silver Mercedes Benz SUV, pushing that vehicle into a Chevrolet Impala.

All the vehicles screeched to a halt.The Mercedes was driven by Will Smith, whose wife Racquel was with him.

Smith had retired from the Saints in 2014, but he and his wife felt a strong commitment to New Orleans and continued to make it their home with their three children.

Their foundation—Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way—provides support for at-risk children in New Orleans and in Smith’s home town of Utica.

Smith had also played an active role in several support groups for families in addition to hosting annual Christmas dinners at the Saints’ practice facility.

New Orleans was celebrating the annual City Fest, and the Smiths had just been to dinner with a retired New Orleans police captain, William Ceravolo.

Ceravolo had continued after retirement to work with troubled youth, including projects with Smith and his foundation.

The Mercedes was driven by Will Smith, whose wife Racquel was with him.

Smith had retired from the Saints in 2014, but he and his wife felt a strong commitment to New Orleans and continued to make it their home with their three children.

Their foundation—Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way—provides support for at-risk children in New Orleans and in Smith’s home town of Utica.

Smith had also played an active role in several support groups for families in addition to hosting annual Christmas dinners at the Saints’ practice facility.

Smith was 34 years old, Hayes is just 28. Details have not been released on what exactly was said at the scene of the accident that caused Hayes to allegedly become unhinged.

From a distance, he seems to fit the profile of the kind of youth that Smith and Ceravolo had been working to help.

Will Smith died near the intersection of Felicity and Sophie Wright Place in the relatively low crime Garden District.

The corner is about the length of three football fields from Felicity and Sophie Wright Place, where Cardell Hayes’ father was shot by police as he charged officer William Ceravolo.

Whether because of Katrina or the death of his father or reasons unknown, Cardell Hayes’ football career never happened.

Last year he played football for a local semi-pro team, the Crescent City Kings.

Update:

In the days following the murder, many rumors swirled as to what might have motivated the attack.

Today, footage has surfaced showing Smith’s Mercedes G63 SUV and Hayes’ Hummer H2 which might add some credence to the road rage theory.

The video shows Hayes’ H2 riding in front of Smith’s vehicle and stopping, causing Smith to rear end Hayes.

As the H2 attempts to pull over, the the Mercedes SUV goes on the other side of the lane and drives off.

This is when Hayes is seen chasing after Smith.

Smith was killed and his wife sustained non-life-threatening gunshot injuries Saturday night in what New Orleans police described as a road rage incident.

Hayes, who remained on the scene, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Smith’s family lawyer Peter Thomson disputed this account Wednesday afternoon, saying at a news conference that while Smith had a lawfully-licensed concealed gun in his vehicle, Smith never took it out and never fired.A loaded handgun was found in Smith’s Mercedes SUV, New Orleans police announced on Tuesday.

There was no evidence that it had been fired.

John Fuller:

Prior to the actions that led to Mr. Smith’s death, my client was involved in a hit and run.

Someone hit him.

The person failed to pull over.

My client trailed behind this person in an effort to get their license plate number.

My client also called 911.

Tanzanike Ruffin:

“In my mind this is justifiable homicide,”

Ruffin continued in the statement,

“Was Will Smith acting like a Saint?

This was a hit-and-run that ended up in a tragedy.

You’ve got the aggression of two football players, facing off with each other as if they are on the field and you are going to get your point across by any means necessary.”

The video itself does not absolve Hayes of any wrong doing, as there is still no evidence presented that would suggest that the defendant was in fear of his life or acted in self-defense, as Fuller has claimed.

Moreover, if Fuller is unable to prove his claims, the actions shown in the video would elevate the second-degree murder charge to first degree due to the element of premeditation.

Surveillance video taken from a nearby restaurant shows the moment Smith’s SUV apparently tapped the back of the Hummer, and then the Hummer pulled over.

Peter Thomson, an attorney for the Smith family

Thomson said the Smiths felt uneasy about the incident and weren’t sure why the larger vehicle with tinted windows had stopped so suddenly — and even questioned whether it was on purpose.

Smith decided not to pull over, prompting the Hummer to chase after the SUV.

Thomson said the driver of the Hummer

“violently rammed the back of their car,”

causing the rear windshield to shatter, the occupants’ heads to whip back and Smith to slam into another car.

“Will checked first to make sure everyone in the car was OK.

They were afraid.

They don’t know what’s going on,”

Thomson said.

“They see a large man coming at the Hummer.”

That’s when Smith decided to approach the two men in the Hummer.

“Hayes was enraged, and he is yelling and cursing, and he had his hands up shaking them and making signals”

Thomson said.

Racquel Smith, 33, and another person tried to defuse the situation and persuaded Will Smith to return to the car.

Thomson said Racquel Smith begged for Hayes to

“leave us alone,”

adding that she put her hands up to him and said:

“Go back to your car. We have children. This is not worth this.”

As the couple headed back to their SUV, Thomson said, Hayes brandished a .45-caliber handgun.

He said the gunman shot Racquel Smith first: once in the right leg, fracturing her femur, and once in her left leg, with the bullet passing through her thigh.

Then the gunman turned to her husband, who had his back toward him, and struck him eight times, Thomson said.

Smith reportedly died with his feet on the ground and his body inside his car.

“My understanding is no bullets entered the front of Will,”

Thomson said.

“The killer, we have evidence, showed no remorse whatsoever.”

He also addressed reports that Will Smith had a gun, saying he had a state license to carry a concealed weapon.

But he said a firearm — described by police as a fully loaded 9 mm handgun — was stashed inside a compartment of the SUV and never taken out.

Hayes was arrested at the scene on suspicion of second-degree murder and remains held on $1 million bond.

A second gun was found unused in his Hummer, police said.

 

 

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