NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The killer of former Saints defensive end Will Smith shot him eight times in the back after deliberately ramming his Hummer into the NFL veteran’s Mercedes SUV hard enough to shatter its back window, the Smith family’s lawyer said Wednesday.
Throughout the confrontation, Smith never pulled out his weapon, which remained loaded but unused in a compartment inside his car, attorney Peter Thompson added.
A lawyer for Cardell Hayes, who was charged by police with murder after Saturday night’s shooting, said his client felt threatened by Smith that night. But Thompson called this a lie and a distortion, and said the real victims were Smith and his wife Racquel, who ended up hospitalized with bullet wounds in both legs.
“Suddenly this Hummer drove up at great speed behind them and rammed into them violently, causing their back windshield to shatter, their heads to whip back, and their car to hit the Chevy Impala in front of them,” said Thompson, who described the ramming of the car as aggravated battery.
Hayes and his passenger then got out and angrily approached Smith, who asked why they were attacking him, Thompson said.
“The driver, who I understand is the killer in this case, is enraged,” Thompson said.
Smith’s wife, Racquel, and another female passenger in their car got out to defuse the situation, and walked Smith back to his car, “but the killer follows,” he said.
“Suddenly, two shots are fired. She is shot immediately in both legs and she collapses. Either immediately or moments thereafter, the killer unloads six to eight shots into Will’s back. In all, the killer shot Will Smith in the back eight times,” Thompson said.
“I can tell you the killer showed no remorse whatsoever, and actually stood over Will Smith’s dead body as his wife crawled away,” he added.
Police revealed Tuesday night that a 9 mm handgun, loaded but unfired, was found inside Smith’s SUV; that Hayes acknowledged at the scene that he fired his 45-caliber handgun at Smith and his wife; and that police also found a second loaded but unfired gun — a revolver — inside Hayes’ Hummer.
“During the argument, Hayes produced a 45-caliber handgun and opened fire, striking Smith and his wife. No one else was injured in the gunfire,” police said in the statement released late Tuesday.
“An additional charge for Smith’s wife’s injury is pending further investigation,” the statement said.
The case has riveted a city where Smith was a fan favorite.
Hayes, 28, is being held on $1 million bond, but defense attorney John Fuller has insisted he will be vindicated once the full story emerges. He said someone “besides my client” was behaving in a threatening manner that night, although he hasn’t said who.
Fuller also said that Hayes was the victim of an earlier hit-and-run, and had called 911 and was following the vehicle that hit him to read the license plate number moments before the confrontation with Smith.
Police also said they had obtained several videos that appear to show a collision of the Mercedes and the Hummer prior to the shooting. On surveillance video from businesses on Magazine Street that was broadcast on local TV, a Mercedes SUV bumps the rear of a Hummer, then pulls around it and drives away.
Other questions remain. Police haven’t released the accounts of Racquel Smith, nor any other witnesses.
A public visitation will be held Friday to honor Smith and a private funeral and burial will be held Saturday.
Smith came to New Orleans from Ohio State and quickly became a team leader. After retirement, he chose to stay in his adopted community, showing his commitment to the city as it recovered from Hurricane Katrina and supporting a foundation that helped women and children.
Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report.