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The city of New Orleans and fans mourn the loss of former New Orleans Saints Will Smith. A memorial has taken over the former crime scene where he was killed near the intersection of Sophie Wright Place and Felicity Street.
According to CNN affiliate WVUE, new video surveillance footage leading up to the murder of former New Orleans Saints defensive end, Will Smith, may shed some new light on what happened. As it turns out there were two small accidents. In the first one, Smith actually rear-ended the Hummer driven by Cardell Hayes with his Mercedes SUV.
After being struck, both vehicles stopped for a moment, and then Hayes is seen pulling over. Instead of doing the same, Smith simply drives off. The video shows Hayes following the former NFL baller's vehicle, who later told police he was trying to get the license plate information.
That reality puts a whole new spin on who initiated the altercation, which led to the beloved Saints player's death. The video below shows new surveillance footage showing who hit whom, along with eyewitnesses giving their accounts of what happened at the time of the shooting. Based on the video above, nothing is as it seemed. Originally, it was believed that Cardell Hayes rear-ended Smith, and that he was the aggressor after the brief traffic accident.
Prior to the shooting, eyewitnesses say the two men were engaged in a heated argument, and both men had guns. Yet only one gun has been accounted for, and police say it belonged to Hayes, who maintains he acted in self defense.
Hayes' attorney, John Fuller, challenged that this was no random act of violence. In defense of his client, Fuller told reporters, "Someone hit him; the person failed to pull over. My client trailed behind this person in an effort to get this license plate number. My client also called 911." He added that Hayes was the one who called the police, stopped a witness from leaving, and stayed on the scene until police arrived. However, if you listen to the initial press release made by NOPD in the video below, it paints an entirely different picture.
No matter how it went down, it didn't have to. Now a man, father, son, brother and husband is dead, a mother is badly injured, and a man is possibly going to jail for the rest of his life.
The tragic event occurred late Saturday night in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. Hours before he died, Will Smith took to Instagram and uploaded a picture of he and his wife, Racquel, with the caption, "having a blast." The happy couple was at a city festival mere hours before they were both shot.
The city is still in rocked by the violent way their former Saint died. Drew Brees and all the players mourn the loss of their brother, friend, and teammate.
According to CNN, the second accident occurred after Hayes went in pursuit of the ex-NFL players for a hit-and-run. According to police, this is where Hayes rear-ended Smith, and that hit pushed Smith into a third car, a Chevy Impala. Hayes then reportedly got out of his vehicle and approached Smith, at which point the two men got into a heated exchange of words and shots rang out seconds later. The end result was Will Smith being mortally injured, taking 6 shots to the chest, and his wife being hit with two bullets to the legs.
Police arrived on the scene minutes later and found the former Saints star dead. The police report said Smith's body was, "in the middle of the street, partially inside of his vehicle, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the body". Authorities confirmed Hayes was still on the scene and was arrested without incident.
Fuller points out that his client is not a criminal, and that he stayed on the scene because it was the right thing to do. He asked, "Now, tell me if that's the behavior that's consistent with someone who's an animal out here looking for blood."
Fuller continued, "His actions are totally consistent with someone that is complying with a police investigation."
According to USA TODAY Sports, Hayes was also a football player who has a career that spanned 15 years. His former coach, Fred Washington of the Crescent City Kings, spoke highly of the 28-year-old, saying that he was “a good football player; a good person.’’
Washington stated he had coached Hayes for the past year and a half on the developmental football team in New Orleans. He added that Cardell “never demonstrated a temper, not in my presence.’’
Lee Green, who coached Hayes from 2001 to 2004 at Warren Easton High School, had a similar opinion of the defensive tackle. Green said, “He was definitely a leader on the team. He was at practice everyday. He was in weight training all during the summertime, and he was at our tutoring program. He was a real good high school student.’’
Hayes has one previous arrest. According to reports, on Aug. 1, 2010, court documents reveal he was charged with illegal carrying of a weapon, illegal possession of codeine and drug paraphernalia, among other charges. He pleaded guilty, only to withdraw his plea and reject an offer a month later. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to a reduced weapons charge and one count of possession. He received a suspended six-month sentence.
For now, Hayes is in custody on a $1 million bond, and has been charged with second-degree murder. The sad situation remains under investigation.