Former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith died at 34 years old after being shot in his car on Camp Street in New Orleans late on the night of April 9.
Michael DeMocker of NOLA.com reported the news and captured images from the crime scene:
Wilborn P. Nobles III of NOLA.com reported the shooting occurred at 11:29 p.m. CT. "Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse confirmed Smith was the fatal victim in the incident," Nobles added. "Police said Smith's wife was wounded and was taken to a hospital. The shooter is being questioned."
Saints VP of communications and broadcasting Greg Bensel confirmed Smith was killed, and the police provided a comprehensive account of what transpired, per Garland Gillen of Fox 8:
Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV cited a source who said two men are in custody for the double shooting and that one of the men admitted to firing the shots. Yellin also reported a police source confirmed a three-car crash and an altercation preceded the shooting.
"Orleans Parish records show Cardell Hayes was booked around 8 a.m. this morning on second-degree murder charges for the shooting of [Smith]," Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com reported Sunday. The Advocate posted Hayes' mug shot on Twitter:
Hayes' bond has been set for $1 million, per Ken Daley of NOLA.com.
"Hayes was a football player at Warren Easton High School in 2004 and was ranked among the top prospects in Louisiana," NOLA.com's Evan Woodbery reported. "As recently as 2015, it appears he was still playing football for the Crescent City Kings, a local developmental team."
Hayes had also sued the city of New Orleans and six New Orleans police officers in 2006 after his father was "pepper-sprayed and shot nine times by police while brandishing a knife along St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District," according to Daley.
On Wednesday, the lawyer for Hayes' passenger told NBC News, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk, that Smith's death was self-defense.
“Smith had a gun and was going to shoot it, and Cardell may have saved both of their lives,” attorney Tanzanika Ruffin said, referring to Hayes and his passenger. “In my mind, this is justifiable homicide. We assume Will Smith is a saint, but he’s not.”
"At no time during this event did Will Smith ever brandish or carry on his person a firearm," Smith's family attorney Peter Thomson said, per Daley.
Thomson added, per Woodbery, that the gun was "in [the] compartment in the vehicle the entire time."
Woodbery cited a witness from a nearby house who reported hearing "yelling and about five gunshots" before running inside. Per Woodbery, a tourist staying at a bed-and-breakfast comforted Smith's wife Racquel, who was shot in the leg. The tourist accompanied Smith's wife until paramedics and the police arrived.
Hayes' attorney John Fuller said "at least one witness saw a gun in [Smith's] possession," per Woodbery. Fuller also said Hayes wanted to be an NFL player, and Smith "was a player he adored, who he wanted to be like." Fuller indicated that "Hayes collapsed in his chair, stunned after being told it was [Smith]," and did not know it was him until Sunday.
On Friday, Fuller sent a letter to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu asking for NOPD to be withdrawn from Smith's investigation, per Emily Lane of NOLA.com:
The letter said the defense has "a grave lack of faith in the honesty and competency" of the NOPD's investigation, citing what it called "factual misstatements from high-ranking" NOPD officials.
The letter did not detail those alleged misstatements. But Fuller has strongly suggested someone may have tampered with the crime scene.
Yellin also provided a statement on behalf of the Smith family:
Smith's wife also released a statement, per Woodbery, saying Smith was a "wonderful husband, wonderful father, adored by her and adored by her children."
Thomson added, per Woodbery, "That night, as always, was trying to protect her."
Saints owner Tom Benson, wife Gayle and the organization released a statement on the team's official website, followed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (via NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy):
Our thoughts and prayers are with Will and his wife Racquel, but more importantly with their children, William, Wynter and Lisa who are suffering and just starting to realize and deal with an unimaginable loss. We are devastated and saddened by Will's tragic and preventable death due to a senseless act that will leave a lasting scar on our community forever. Will was more than an exceptional football player he was a father, a husband, a son, a brother and teammate to so many and an inspiration to countless more. He will be greatly missed by all those he touched and impacted both on and off the football field and his legacy will continue to shine. The Saints family is hurting and devastated as it has lost a member too young and too soon.
Saints executive vice president and general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton and running back Mark Ingram, along with former Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and Smith's agent Joel Segal (via Bleacher Report's Jason Cole), also released statements on Twitter:
The Saints also announced that Smith was voted into the Saints Hall of Fame in March; the news was slated to be made public in May. A visitation for guests to pay their final respects to Smith will also be held Friday at the Saints' indoor practice facility, the team announced.
Jim Tressel, who coached Smith at Ohio State, also spoke on his former player's passing on Twitter:
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith announced the school will honor Smith Saturday at the spring game.
Smith, who played all nine of his NFL seasons with the Saints, logged 67.5 sacks in his career, was named to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and played on the Super Bowl XLIV championship team.
CNN.com's Eliott C. McLaughlin and Catherine E. Shoichet noted that "Smith's foundation, Where There's A Will, There's A Way, helped to serve high school athletes in his hometown Utica, New York. He also sat on the advisory board of The Artists and Athletes Alliance."
Smith was the No. 18 overall pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft.